Increased conversions. Precise and timely product recommendations. Targeted engagement and improved interaction. A customer-centric experience that sends loyalty into the stratosphere. You might not believe there’s a single marketing tactic that can do all of that, but there is. And you most certainly have been a subject of it already today: marketing personalization.

What once was simply adding a recipient’s name to a newsletter email is now so much more. From dynamic content that changes the more a user interacts with your site to website personalization that shows them offers from locations nearest to them, personalization in marketing is expanding to almost everything marketers do.

Personalized marketing might seem at first like a contradiction. After all, marketing itself means making a broad appeal rather than speaking to an individual. But with advancing technology like machine learning and AI, what once was personal back when we sold products door-to-door can be again. And the buyer’s journey your team has worked so hard to identify and build content around? Marketing personalization allows you to extend that journey and learn even more about your buyers.

About 92 percent of marketers are using personalization in marketing in one form or another, with email being by far the most widely used method (77 percent). Website personalization (52 percent), mobile (31 percent) and web app (24 percent) also are common.

Using deep analytics and marketing automation tools, marketers can make their campaigns as personalized as Netflix’s viewing recommendations or Amazon’s suggested purchases. The benefits of personalization in marketing are vast and undeniable:

The bottom line? Consumers want marketing to be personalized for them, and they are prepared to reward companies that do it and do it right. That means more clicks and visits, more conversions, higher sales figures and more long-term happy customers. According to our research, even a simple effort to incorporate personalization in marketing can boost revenue by more than 30 percent.

What Personalization in Marketing Can Look Like

While the benefits of marketing personalization will depend largely on how well your organization is able to implement it, there is no doubt your customers will expect a personalized experience. Nearly 90 percent of marketers in one survey said their leads and customers assume their interactions with organizations will be grounded in a personalized approach. That means creating a personalized experience for thousands upon thousands of people.

That’s a huge task, no doubt, but think about the enormous benefits to your company once you’re able to truly personalize the marketing experience. Especially if you can combine a mature, robust content marketing strategy with thoughtful, effective personalization, you will be able to make your leads and customers feel as if you are speaking to them — and only to them.

Have you ever gotten a piece of mail addressed to: “Your Name (or Current Resident)”? It makes you feel as if the company who sent it was thinking, “This message is for whoever happens to open the door today.” Doesn’t exactly compel you to action, does it?  Similarly, if you’ve put in the effort it takes to develop buyer personas and understand their journey, why would you not then continue that effort? That’s essentially what personalization allows you to do; done well, it’s the logical extension of a content marketing strategy that is grounded in a well-developed buyer’s journey. Let’s look at some of the ways you can integrate personalization throughout your marketing and communications.

Email

Virtually every company today personalizes email marketing in the form of customers’ names, but clever and creative marketers can kick that into high gear:

  • Customer-specific product recommendations based on past purchases, searches or abandoned carts (think Amazon, eBay and other online retailers).
  • Geolocated, region-based or even weather-driven dynamic content delivered in an incredibly small window of time.
  • Birthday or anniversary messages offering a discount or even a gift.
  • Reminders based on previous purchases; for instance, car manufacturers alerting purchasers to needed vehicle maintenance and offering a way to book an appointment. Or toothbrush companies that remind customers when they need to replace their brush heads.

Website

Merely optimizing your website for different browsers and platforms isn’t nearly enough. Consider:

As we said earlier, your mileage will vary based on what information you’re able to gather about your leads and customers, but in case you haven’t been convinced yet, think about these two stats: personalized marketing emails boost click rates by 41 percent, and effective personalization of marketing and websites can lift marketing ROI by eight-fold.

 

What You Need for First-Rate Marketing Personalization

The single most important precursor for personalization in marketing is data. You must have a deep and wide well of information about your website visitors, leads and customers before you can take action to personalize your content marketing and other messaging.

Once you have the appropriate insight, you need platforms and systems to help you identify possible ways to personalize your marketing. For instance, it’s great to know the birthdates of people who buy items from your website. But do you really want to personally compose an email to all of them on their birthdays? Of course not. So effective marketing personalization goes hand-in-hand with other marketing automation that you are probably already using. It’s perhaps a bit ironic, but you need machines to help your other machines make your marketing feel less like it’s coming from a machine.

Here’s a look at some of the visitor and lead information you’ll need to really knock personalization out of the park:

  • Personal information (name, gender, location, age, job)
  • Referral source and keywords
  • Time on site/page and content viewed
  • Frequency and time of visits
  • Email open/click-through rates
  • Purchase history
  • Actions on page/number of clicks and scrolls
  • Site searches
  • Engagement with chat
  • Mouse activity
  • Logins
  • Device/OS/browser

Having the information is more than half the battle, but you can’t win the war if you don’t have systems in place to help surface some of the intelligence based on that data. Here are some of the highest-rated marketing personalization software options:

Beyond the data and a platform (and/or integration into current marketing automation), what else do you need? Considering email and website personalization is a relatively new concept but already is expected by nearly every person visiting your website, one thing you definitely will need is the enthusiasm and staying power to continue gathering and analyzing data from your customers, leads and visitors. After all, you need a dynamic, continually updated picture so you can know how effective your efforts are now and that you have the tools you need to make them even better in the future.

And there’s not much value in personalizing a customer experience if you don’t have the content to back it up, so you need outstanding content that will engage and delight leads and customers.

Finally, you must have a broad but detailed strategy across all departments and all channels that governs data collection, reporting, follow-up, compliance and data integrity. Remember that while consumers might ultimately appreciate personalization, they are also wary of how much companies know about them. Nearly three-quarters of consumers believe they’re being spied on by brands. Even if that’s a perception and not reality, personalization efforts should never come at the expense of alienating people. We do know that personalization works incredibly well (94 percent of consumers say exclusive, personalized offers make them more likely to buy), but you must strike a balance between giving customers what they want and being a good citizen.

 

How They Did It: Marketing Personalization Case Studies

Let’s take a look at some organizations that implemented personalization in marketing, including what they did and how well it’s worked:

Amazon

Too big to leave out of this, Amazon truly blazed the trail for marketing personalization. Using its so-called recommendation engine, every time you visit Amazon, the company is deepening its knowledge of what you like and what you might want to buy. The online behemoth first introduced its recommendation engine back in 2012, and the results were immediate: In the first quarter after the launch, Amazon boosted sales by 29 percent over the previous year. For a company that size, that equated to nearly $3 billion.

Cadbury

In 2015, shortly after Facebook first introduced its personalized videos in which users could celebrate anniversaries on the platform, chocolate company Cadbury wanted to get in on the action. But they didn’t just want to highlight consumers’ engagement with their brand; they wanted to make it about what they do as a company, too. So they used consumer data gleaned from users’ Facebook profiles to create personalized videos that combined information from Facebook with an algorithm-created recommendation about the person’s taste in chocolate. The videos earned Cadbury a 65 percent click-through rate and 33.6 percent conversion rate.

Starbucks

With a location on every corner, the Seattle-based coffee company is incredibly well-suited to provide personalized marketing that employs geolocation technology. With its mobile app, Starbucks provides a loyalty program with real, ahem, buzz. Each time a customer opens the app, they can track their position in the rewards program (how many stars they need to get to the next level), add money to their rewards account or even place an order. Rewards members account for 40 percent of the company’s sales, and rewards and mobile users were credited with an 11 percent revenue increase.

EasyJet

For its 20th anniversary in 2015, the budget airline based in London took personalization in marketing to new heights. The company’s email campaign gathered existing customer data and crafted individual stories for each recipient based on nearly 30 travel-related data points. EasyJet’s results were stunning: The campaign had open rates more than double that of their other newsletters and pushed click-through rates up by about 25 percent.

Johnny Cupcakes

Billing itself as the world’s first T-shirt bakery, the retailer specializes in graphic tees with a sweet twist as well as offering other apparel and accessories. But in its early days, email marketing was little more than sending a weekly blast to all 80,000 subscribers. By mining basic customer information — gender, media habits, lifestyle and interests — Johnny Cupcakes was able to segment its subscriber database and create custom messages for each segment. This basic personalization boosted click-through by 42 percent and generated 140 percent more revenue per each campaign.

 

Conclusion

For marketers, proving return on investment often can be the difference between having a great job and looking for a new one. That’s why savvy marketers are constantly looking for a new edge, and integrating rapidly advancing technology into your marketing efforts seems like a true no-brainer.

When you pair that with the fact that viewers and readers will expect nothing less, you really don’t have a choice in whether you launch marketing personalization efforts in your organization. Depending on your existing data and automation infrastructure, integrating dynamic content through website or email personalization is likely to be a tall task. But it’s one you simply cannot afford to avoid.

And for those looking over their shoulders, take this math to your boss: The average marketing campaign returns about $1.09 for every dollar spent. A typical company earning $5 million per year in revenue will spend $600,000 on marketing. So if we take one of our real-world examples from above, our theoretical company employing a smart marketing personalization strategy could boost its bottom line by nearly 30 percent. Using website and marketing personalization can take your average $1.09 marketing ROI and more than double it to $2.62 returned for every dollar spent.

Marketers already agree that personalization is effective, as 93 percent see an increase in conversion rates after website personalization efforts are implemented. And considering that 88 percent of marketers say their customers expect a personalized experience, it’s no longer something that’s nice to have. It’s a mission-critical tool in your marketing arsenal.