Personalization in Digital Marketing

February 21, 2020

Chances are, if you’ve interacted with a brand on the internet recently, you’ve encountered an example of personalization. Maybe you started seeing ads for the same products you were looking at, or received an email addressed to you personally rather than to “our valued customers”. These are just a few strategies that companies can use to personalize their messaging to increase the likelihood that you will interact with them again. They are also strategies that you should be using if you want your digital marketing to be maximally effective.

The simple fact is that personalization works. According to research by Infosys, almost all consumers report that personalization influences their shopping decisions, and almost 75% are put off by generic messaging. Given statistics like these, it would be foolish not to pursue personalization in your digital marketing.

It’s important to note that personalization can look very different for different companies. Any ad or feature can be considered to be personalized if it attempts to directly address a certain audience, or ideally, an individual customer. This might include:

  • Email content that changes depending on the recipient (think broader than the salutation—a mere “Hey Kim” is less effective than copy that reflects Kim’s interests and spending habits)
  • Dynamic suggestions or product recommendations
  • Targeted discounts or price drop notifications based on what the customer has viewed before
  • Birthday presents
  • Geographic references in PPC ads or ad copy

Personalization also looks different in different contexts. For instance, in email copy, it’s possible to customize the entire narrative of the message depending on the recipient. PPC ads tend to be shorter and more focused, so you’ll likely be able to develop more variations on the same message and target them more precisely, but you have limited space to make the consumer feel recognized. Personalized PPC ads can also walk a fine line between friendly and creepy, especially when using data about browsing habits. To avoid becoming part of a meme about phones listening in on conversations, consider contextualizing the data. For instance, a heading like “Your favorites are on sale now” can jog the user’s memory as to how they know your brand. Finally, personalization can be extremely effective when integrated into your website’s interface itself, especially if you denote personalized sections with friendly headers like “You might also like...”

Amazon is often hailed as the king of personalization, and you’ll note that they use all of these strategies and more, integrating them into both communications and their website’s interface. Features like “Buy it Again” or “Customers Also Viewed” use data to predict each Amazon users interests and increase the likelihood of repeat engagement. Other brands incorporate similar features into member-only loyalty programs, including Target Circle, Sephora Insiders, and Starbucks Rewards, all of which push similarly personalized content and savings via apps, member portals, and email campaigns. Although Amazon’s approach is more holistic, opt-in programs stand to increase brand loyalty, which may be a worthy trade-off in more crowded industries. 

Although many use personalization and customization interchangeably, including some marketing professionals, they are simply not the same thing. Both personalization and customization tailor products and messaging to consumers, but the key difference lies in who does that optimization: personalization draws on audience data to precisely target potential customers, but the decision-making comes from you and your marketing team. By contrast, customization puts such changes into the hands of the customer. Consider selling a t-shirt to a niche demographic. A personalization strategy requires that you predict the kind of shirt that audience might like and serve it to them through targeted advertisements. A customization strategy would be to serve an existing ad to the target audience but then to allow them to alter the shirt’s color, fit, or design to their satisfaction. While it’s possible and effective to combine the two, not every instance of personalization involves customization (and vice versa).

At excelerate, we strive to remain ahead of the curve in digital advertising trends. We draw on years of marketing knowledge to help you develop the best iterations of personalization and customization possible, driving conversions and increasing brand loyalty. To learn more, give us a call at 866-530-2729.

Additional Sources Referenced: Infosys, Rethinking Retail (PDF)