Choose your language:



Hong Kong




New Zealand




United Kingdom

United States

Personalization: One-to-one marketing, at scale

The philosophy behind personalization

May 12, 2020 | By: Kalev Peekna

Biometric identification. African-american woman engaging with facial recognition system on smartphone

Organizations have never relied more on their digital experience, not just as a marketing channel but as the primary means by which customers can discover, access and engage with their products and services. For many organizations, replicating the one-to-one marketing experience from in-person interactions—in a brick-and-mortar store, at an event or simply direct conversations—poses a significant challenge. It’s one reason why personalization remains a top goal for many digital marketing leaders.

It’s almost ironic—for something called “personalization,” the inclination is still to put the technology first. Nearly half (44%) of personalization spend is on technology. And yet, Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of digital marketers will abandon personalization efforts due to lack of clear ROI. It makes sense—if you have technology, but no clear roadmap and strategy to guide it, then you probably don’t even know what the ROI for personalization is supposed to look like. It’s no wonder marketers get disheartened.

Too often, personalization conversations begin because the marketer is trying to tick off a box. But personalization isn’t a task—it’s a philosophy. Learn how to streamline your marketing efforts and improve your customer journey by understanding a better way to market for personalization, but at a large scale.

Ask: What would you like to improve about your customer journey?

To get ROI on your digital experience investments, you must align technical capabilities to the goals you’re trying to achieve in improving the customer experience: Reduce friction? Create magic? Streamline action?

You will use technology—maybe even new technology—but personalization is an experience-based transformation of your customer journey. Look at the customer experience you’ve created over time and consider the different points where you could reduce friction or create magic; then look to find the technology that supports the experience you want to create. Think about your business. Is there a high-value customer segment or product line where personalization (i.e., one-to-one marketing, at scale) could lower the cost of marketing to that buyer while increasing impact?

The key shift in mindset needed here is to ground your inspiration in the external perspective—something that various disciplines like UX, design thinking and human-centered design all share. You’ll find your best insights not from data analytics or market statistics, but from a deep understanding of how what you offer fits into the much broader context of your customers’ real-life experience.

Understand: Permission marketing offers great power, requires great responsibility

Permission marketing is giving consent for engagement or “opting-in” and agreeing to give data to a company in good faith that the data will be used to enhance their experience with the company. If used honorably, it can fuel personalization.

Of course, there are ways this could (and has) gone haywire. Our sense of anonymity has value, so if a brand does anything that breaks anonymity or the veil of it, people expect something valuable in return—otherwise, it’s intrusive or creepy. Context is critical; marketing must get in front of the technology. Digital users are OK with permission marketing if they feel like they’re gaining value out of it. For example, if a 10-minute interaction with an airline can be resolved in 1 minute for a business traveler, they’re likely to perceive a great deal of value from that and are therefore willing to share relevant information with the company to do so.

Prepare: Get your data house in order

When we come into organizations that haven’t had a strategic approach to data integration or flow, there are a few structural issues that also pop up at the outset. Typically, there are different groups that are managing the data versus generating the data versus reporting on the data. The product owner defines what they’re going to capture. The IT team is putting the data into data marts. Then, a reporting team is trying to act on that data. And that’s without considering what data we want to get back to the customer to impact their customer experience. A lot of time companies are drowning in data that they can’t analyze, let alone strategize or monetize.

All forms of personalization are data-driven; it’s dependent on a reliable, unfragmented view of the customer. The groundwork to consolidate and cleanse data across all your systems before launching a personalization strategy is critical.

Level-set: Be honest with your intentions

There’s a difference between personalization of the experience and the hypertargeting of ads, offers and other communications. That’s not to say that refined targeting isn’t a valuable tool in your marketing toolbox. With most modern CMS platforms, you can create audiences and segments, and market products toward these audiences using AI and automation. This can help you learn more about your customers and their behavior patterns, and that in turn can inform how to build and market your products or services. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep in mind that no amount of targeting alone will ever create what feels like a personalized experience to your customers. For that, you need to look more broadly.

Another tool, A/B testing, offers a systematic way to experiment with different experiences. A/B testing might test how the entire site is organized—even down to headers, colors, campaign messaging, calls to action and so on. While A/B testing and personalization have the same implementation—the ability to vary content between users—they aren’t synonymous.

Personalization is about changing the experience—it’s a commitment to more deeply understand and serve your customer. It’s a genuine investment in differentiating how you engage with customers based on their needs, understanding what makes them different from moment to moment and enriching the customer experience by using the data gathered from that customer to deliver back value. Create the confidence and trust that turns one-time customers into lifelong brand loyalists.

Read more about personalization in our issue of Version Next Now, Connecting Through Content, where we discuss the critical role personalization plays in a brand’s content strategy, and read more about how TEKsystems can streamline your customer’s journey .

Kalev Peekna is the chief strategist at One North, leading the Digital Strategy team. He brings a cross-platform, user-focused approach to innovations in brand development, design, data analysis and technology, and helps clients apply those innovations to their strategic aims. One North is part of TEKsystems Global Services.