In the age of technology and social media, the personalization of content is nothing new. Personalization increases relevance, and increased relevance drives increased engagement.
Retailers use personalization effectively to their advantage. Consider Amazon’s landing page. With its personal greeting and purchase suggestions, it is tailored just for you. Social media also uses your browsing history to target ads that you may be interested in.
Companies do not use these tactics by accident. Studies have shown that the personalization of information on retail websites increases customer satisfaction and purchase intention.1
And 89% of consumers choose a financial institution based on how personalized their experience is.2
Choosing a financial literacy education program is no different. In fact, personalization in education, and specifically financial education, is even more important.
The Difference Between Personalized and One-Size-Fits-All
Consider two scenarios: In the first, you enter a room filled with people. The host asks, “Who would you like to speak to?” But he provides no further information. You are meant to look around the room and guess at which person you would most enjoy speaking with.
In the second scenario, you enter the same room, but the host asks, “What would you like to discuss today?” Now, you get to respond with “Car racing,” or “Literature.” From there, you can be pointed in the right direction for a fulfilling conversation.
The same theory applies to learning. Often, especially when faced with an oversized subject like financial literacy, a person does not know where to begin. A simple financial assessment at the start of a course or interaction can help guide the entire learning experience. These can help direct a participant to areas of interest or need.
The Benefits of Personalization
As we mentioned earlier, personalization helps drive increased sales and customer satisfaction in retail. It also enhances customer retention in banking. Similar effects are found in learning.
Personalization of content based on learning style has been shown to lead to better learning.3
Indeed, there is a growing trend toward personalized learning in all levels of education, with more and more traditional educational facilities incorporating it.4
Simple changes like addressing emails to “Dear David,” instead of “Dear Students” can make a big difference in efficacy.
Impacts and Importance of Personalization on Financial Education
When looking specifically at financial literacy education, personalization becomes even more important. Not only does knowledge vary from person to person, but each individual’s financial situation can vary dramatically.
A single person still living with a family has specific financial interests and needs. A married person with two children and student loan debt may have many different needs. Lumping them into a one-size-fits-all financial literacy course would be similar to putting a fourth-grader and a tenth grader in the same math class. It simply doesn’t work.
Financial literacy education is also more of a high-stakes situation than many other learning areas. Financial literacy and decision-making can have a profound impact on a person’s life. Good financial literacy can lead to lower debt levels. It has also been shown to increase savings and asset accumulation.5
That makes creating effective financial literacy programs all the more important, and why personalization is so key.
One study found personalized financial counseling was one way to have a significant effect on real financial outcomes. The same study found financial incentives less effective in creating real change.6
The state of Vermont’s Agency of Education developed a Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) outline specifically for financial education. The state realized the importance of financial education on a graduate’s success. As their website says, “personal finance education helps students understand their role as independent adult consumers, fully prepared to make wise financial decisions with regard to earning, spending, and saving, as well as managing credit, debt, risk, and investment for a lifetime of economic security.”7
Personalized service has grown exponentially with the advent of the internet and social media. Automated systems make the personalization of information not only easier but more important.
Everything from ATMs to Amazon gives us a customized greeting these days. Given the huge importance of financial literacy, personalization is a required tool.
A one-size-fits-all approach to financial literacy is likely to fall on deaf ears, as many users will think it does not apply to them. Any effective financial literacy program will incorporate the technology that allows more than just perfunctory personalization.
It will dive into the deeper needs of individuals to customize content for each user.
1 - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08874417.2011.11645517
2 - https://everfi.com/blog/financial-education/financial-institutions-personalization/
3 - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0736585316303124
4 - https://www.edweek.org/technology/personalized-learning-what-does-the-research-say/2016/10
5 - https://www.financialeducatorscouncil.org/impact-of-financial-literacy/
6 - https://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/mnsc.2017.2819
7 - https://education.vermont.gov/student-learning/content-areas/financial-literacy