How to Get Personalization Right

By Erika Goldwater

May 10, 2018


It’s hard to image that investing in personalization can be anything but right.

There are many reasons to invest in personalization. According to a recent article by McKinsey,

“Personalization can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50 percent, lift revenues by 5 to 15 percent, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10 to 30 percent.”

However, alluring statistics like these don’t include the many cases in which businesses fail to use personalization to its highest potential. Personalization is more than a customized email or a direct mailer used to drive sales: that method is personalization 101, and in this era of marketing it’s table stakes.

True personalization means using all the relevant data you have to build engagement maturity with customers. It takes time to build a 1-to-1 relationship with the buyer, starting from an initial engagement and extending beyond the sale. You don’t get to a fully mature personalization engagement model immediately.

Two things have to happen to build personalization the right way:

Strategic planning

According to Profiting from Personalization by BCG, “Personalization is not a series of fancy tech tricks to prove that things can be done differently; it is a solution to improve the customer experience.”

Personalization means thinking about how to uniquely engage and help a customer throughout the entire customer journey, from product development to fulfillment and customer service. Organizations that excel in personalization do this post-sale and into advocacy as well.

If you think about personalization in terms of these different “units,” you can get a better sense about the opportunity that personalization provides:

  • Moment - atomic unit of interaction between a customer and a brand
  • Conversation - a series of connected moments connected by time and customer intent
  • Journey - a series of conversations connected by customer need
  • Relationship - the series of all journeys between a given customer and a brand

Think about organizations like Zappos, Netflix, Disney, or Amazon who have established and fine-tuned their business processes to foster relationships with their buyers starting with the very first moment. They trade relevant data via conversations across the journey for optimized experiences, and ultimately, build relationships that foster brand loyalty and revenues that exceed industry standards. Personalization has become how they do what they do, and they have mature, loyal relationships to prove it.

The right technology

To enable a truly personalized experience for buyers, organizations need to leverage the right technology. Personalization is a broad topic, so it can be confusing to build the right martech stack as many solutions overlap in solving some of the same challenges. 

There are almost 7,000 solutions identified on the Marketing Technology Supergraphic in 2018 and although many seem to have similar functionalities, there are big differences that can impact customer experience. Not all personalization solutions are equal, nor do they all fit for different organizations’ personalization needs.

When choosing personalization technology, marketers need to consider the following:

  • Evaluate all the places in which you want to personalize the experience. Is it on the web only? Would you like to extend this to email? Mobile app? In store? Call center? Adtech?
  • Consider the ways that are important to your business to deliver personalization. Are you just looking to personalize product recommendations? Would you like to expand this to website creative? Copy blocks? Personalized web navigation?
  • Inventory the data you might want to use to inform the personalization. Where does it reside? Can the technology connect these systems easily?
  • Be real about the importance of AI to your business. If scaling your efforts is a pain point, you’ll want to have AI capability. Ensure you choose one that offers visibility into results so you can see and learn from the decisioning.

Choosing the right technology to enable personalization at scale and building the right processes are essential for successful personalization. Organizations that have built processes to enable mature personalized experiences, and are committed to delivering exceptional services beyond the sale, will see higher customer engagement, more revenue, and brand loyalty that exceeds expectations.

Personalization today isn’t just marketing, and it is about more than making a sale. It is a concept that is tightly woven into the broader customer experience and can make or break an organization. It’s important to get it right.

Erika Goldwater, CIPP/US is a B2B demand generation expert with over 15 years of experience in fast-growth technology and consulting organizations. Goldwater has had her privacy certification since 2008, working to help marketers implement best-practices and drive revenue the right way. Prior to Monetate, Goldwater was VP of Marketing for ANNUITAS and Marketing Manager, Strategic Accounts and Partners for Eloqua.

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