Personalization can be an overused and underdelivered buzzword in the tech scene, and it is something not to be taken for granted.

At least, that’s what Brian Witlin, COO and mobile lead at Yummly, said he has learned over the past couple of years.

But for Yummly, personalization does not mean spelling your name correctly on the subject line of a generic email. For the company, the process gets very intimate, very quickly. The service does not wait for you to get comfortable before it gets to personal questions. It does not offer you a drink first — it straight-up asks everything it needs to know about you the moment you step in the door.

To access any of the website content, you need to hook up your Facebook profile to Yummly, or create a new profile. But once you are done with that part of the deal, which is personal enough, the questioning starts. How old are you? How much cooking do you do? What do you like? What don’t you like?

This process is called an on-boarding experience. And, though it can seem as a risky make-it-or-break-it situation due to the intrusiveness, Witlin said this is one of the most important steps toward not only building a relationship with customers, but also retaining them.

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The on-boarding may seem a tedious step, especially because it’s hard to keep people’s attention for more than two minutes, but Witlin said it’s all about the details. From the baby graphic in the age section to the tasty-looking plates in the cuisine preference section, this is the moment to impress the prospective user. “This is all about allowing people to have an ‘a-ha’ moment. They understand the value of the app since the first moment,” he said.

“I don’t think every company can do the on-boarding experience, but we have the smarts and the analytics,” Witlin added.

And the smarts is, for him, what allows growth. “Real personalization” plus retention equals growth — in Yummly’s case, over 100 percent growth when you compare 2015 to 2014, Witlin said. You can learn more about Yummly’s growth at GrowthBeat, where the COO will be one of our speakers on August 18.

Personalization can be the key to learning customers’ needs and opening the company to better product delivery. In that sense, according to Witlin, there is is no such thing as asking too much information.

“Other companies say it is intrusive. But, if you do it right, that is the right foundation of growth,” he said.

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