5 Personalization Best Practices for Digital Marketing

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5 Personalization Best Practices for Digital Marketing


Customer experience is king. Brands that personalize the shopping experience across channels are rewarded with repeat business. And data shows those that don’t can expect their customers to take their business elsewhere.

But though the importance of a consistent customer experience is understood, a recent CMO Club study revealed a majority of CMOs struggle to deliver one.

If you’re among them, take note of these best practices for offering customers the optimal end-to-end experience.

Start with your business strategy

An exceptional, targeted customer experience is a “journey of trust” that starts with your basic proposition, according to Hampton Birdwell, CEO of Tenet Partners, a brand innovation and marketing firm. Look to the attributes that embody your business strategy to build an experience unique to your brand.

Birdwell points to IKEA and Crate and Barrel as examples of companies that have done this well.

“From self-assembly and no sales staff versus white glove delivery and long-lasting furniture, these brands have made very different choices,” Birdwell says. “And that’s a good thing. It’s a signal that you are doing something different and have created a unique value proposition for customers.”

Understand each customer is unique

Marketers have long relied on buyer personas to understand how to engage prospective customers. But one-dimensional descriptions aren’t enough. You need to “increase the resolution” of your customer profiles, says Aaron Aycock, co-founder and CEO of UserIQ, a customer behavior and analytics platform for B2B SaaS companies.

“Compared to persona-based segments, adding demographic data and personalization is like moving from standard definition to HD,” he says. “Best-in-class companies are figuring out ways to include behavioral and sentiment data, which is like a move to Ultra-HD 5k views of their best customers. And just like HD, once companies have this view, they’ll wonder how they ever lived without it.”

Know where customers are in the journey

Customer journey mapping is essential to understanding the customer experience from initial contact through the purchase. But don’t assume each customer will follow it at the same pace, warns Aycock. He notes drip campaigns are typically based on time delays: Day 1, Welcome; Day 3, Check-in; Day 5, Reminder. But if you base your messaging on elapsed time alone, no amount of personalization will overcome the damage of a tone-deaf or irrelevant message.

“A new customer that is quickly becoming a power user doesn’t need a Day 5 check-in message, even if it is addressed to them by name,” he says. “Instead, best-in-class companies understand where a customer is in the journey based on behavior, sentiment and goals.”

Deliver on the right channel

“The right message to the right person at the right time” is a marketing mantra. But Aycock believes many companies overlook a final ingredient: the right channel. Brands usually focus on email because it’s the easy. But this has led to channel fatigue, he notes, where single-digit open rates are accepted as the norm.

“A personalized message with highly-relevant content delivered in-the-moment as a customer navigates a web application or site is far more effective,” he says.  “Companies should be as comfortable connecting with customers inside their web or mobile application as they are in email or over the phone.”

Measure and manage in real-time

Marriott hotels use geofencing to interact with guests at precise locations across a property. Home Depot combines its mobile app with iBeacons and supply chain data to help customers navigate to in-store items. And companies from Starbucks to Starwood Hotels are using the Apple Watch to enhance their customer experience.

The real-time data these technologies provide is transforming brands’ ability to deliver new value to customers — and even change their behavior.

“By moving away from tools that are telling you about the past, long after you might be able to do anything to solve the problem,” Birdwell says, “you will create a significant competitive advantage.”