When was the last time a marketing campaign really spoke to you personally? From the moment a brand sent you an email, shared content on social media, or offered you a special promotion, that you felt like you were their one and only customer? Like their message was tailored specifically for you? Take your time…

Since the early days of Big Data, ecommerce, and social media, personalization—the ability to have conversions on an individual level with each customer across every channel--has been promised as the next big thing in marketing. When you look at the numbers, you can understand why.

Personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and can lift sales by 10% or more.

Matt Ariker, Jason Heller, Alejandro Diaz, Jesko Perrey "How Marketers Can Personalize at Scale," Harvard Business Review

Yet many brands still think personalization begins and ends by sending a customer an email that addresses them by name--if they even get the name right which isn’t always a guarantee.

Brands can do better.

Customers deserve better.

Instead of freeing up more time to build meaningful connections with customers, marketing technology has enabled even more spray and pray tactics where the focus is on reaching more consumers faster, with the same generic drabble.

Why is marketing personalization still a bridge too far for so many brands? There are a myriad of reasons: lack of buy-in from executives and senior management, information overload from the infinite amount of data being collected online (which often creates data paralysis), not having the right technology and systems in place to capture and analyze consumer insights to be able to take action, and the list goes on.

The good news is most brands can dramatically improve personalization with the data and internal resources they already have at their disposal.

Personalizing the Customer Experience

Personalization requires two key elements—knowledge of your customers and a direct way to communicate. That’s it. Think about your organization. What information do you already know about your shoppers that can help you quickly and easily personalize your marketing? These might include:

  1. Trigger events. Specific occasions when you think your message would be most useful to your customers. For example, if you’re Crate & Barrel, you might send a targeted message to a new home buyer with decorating ideas and a discount on items for your new home. Or you can send a birthday offer for a free entrée or dessert—basic information you can use to create more personalized connections.

  2. Customer signals. Understanding what your customers need and want based on their purchase history, online browsing, and social media posts. You can then respond with relevant and timely messages to each individual customer based on where they are in their customer journey.

  3. Identify & capture the right data. This is often the biggest sticking point for brands. What information matters most? How do you capture it? And what insights can you glean that can help you with personalization. Work big to small. Think about the critical few elements that are most important to your business and your customers—elements that drive their purchasing decisions and behavior. If you don’t already have an internal system in place, you can start with something as simple as a shared spreadsheet and then find a more robust solution once you have a better idea of what information you want to capture.

Personalization Is No Longer a “Nice to Have”

Marketing personalization is no longer a “nice to have”—it’s absolutely crucial for brands that want to survive and drive growth in the digital age. Your customers expect it. Your competition is (or will be soon) doing it. To ultimately be successful, brands will need to continuously nurture one-to-one customer relationships and that all starts with personalization. The process can be difficult, requiring a deep understanding of your customer data, cross-functional communication and collaboration, and having the right infrastructure in place, but the return will likely more than justify the investment.