Personalized Customer Experiences: 10 Expert Tips To Maximize Results

A one-size-fits-all con­sumer out­reach strat­e­gy is becom­ing obso­lete as more data allows brands to offer increas­ing­ly per­son­al­ized expe­ri­ences.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 2 comments

Like a ver­i­ta­ble Nik Wal­len­da walk­ing a tightrope across Nia­gara Falls with­out a safe­ty net, mar­keters face both great oppor­tu­ni­ty and risk with per­son­al­iza­tion. A one-size-fits-all con­sumer out­reach strat­e­gy is quick­ly becom­ing obso­lete as more data allows brands to offer increas­ing­ly per­son­al­ized expe­ri­ences. That’s the clear con­sen­sus of mar­ket­ing experts at recent indus­try events.

How­ev­er, with more data – and/or the wrong per­son­al­iza­tion effort – comes the risk of mak­ing con­sumers feel like their pri­va­cy has been vio­lat­ed, which clear­ly does not gen­er­ate good will or brand loy­al­ty.

So, as mar­keters face this chal­lenge, how do they, like Wal­len­da, walk this fine line with­out falling into the abyss?

Here are 10 of the best per­son­al­iza­tion tips from dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing experts.

1. Consumers Already Expect Some Degree Of Personalization

Con­sumers are increas­ing­ly encoun­ter­ing per­son­al­iza­tion through retar­get­ing or via sites like Ama­zon and Net­flix, which cater expe­ri­ences to spe­cif­ic users.

These expe­ri­ences enable brands to be more rel­e­vant, and, frankly, some con­sumers even expect per­son­al­ized expe­ri­ences now and can be dis­ap­point­ed with­out them, said Cara Harsh­man, con­tent mar­ket­ing man­ag­er of cus­tomer expe­ri­ence opti­miza­tion soft­ware com­pa­ny Opti­mize­ly, at Moz­con last week.

2. Get To Know Your Customers Better

In addi­tion, with more data points avail­able, mar­keters can see con­sumers across mul­ti­ple devices and under­stand behav­ior bet­ter over­all, said Angela Sanchez, vice pres­i­dent of CRM at Uni­ver­sal Music Group, at Salesforce’s recent Con­nec­tions con­fer­ence.

We have bet­ter infor­ma­tion about where peo­ple are, what they are doing when they are some place, and if peo­ple are logged in on a phone,” echoed Matt Wurst, vice pres­i­dent and gen­er­al man­ag­er of social mar­ket­ing for dig­i­tal agency 360i, at Con­nec­tions. “There’s a lot we can learn about con­sumer behav­ior that goes into the over­all caul­dron of insights and research.”

Face­book CMO Gary Brig­gs also shared this sen­ti­ment, say­ing cus­tomer expec­ta­tions are ris­ing and brands there­fore need to be able to pro­vide rel­e­vant con­tent or risk annoy­ing con­sumers who are tar­get­ed by ads they don’t want to see.

You know a lot about me. I’m lik­ing things, I’m tweet­ing things,” Brig­gs said. “You should be able to put some­thing rel­e­vant in front of me.”

3. Look Forward

Data isn’t just about KPIs.

To be sure, Ann Han­d­ley, chief con­tent offi­cer of mar­ket­ing research tool Mar­ket­ing­Profs, said that instead of using data as “a rearview mir­ror,” mar­keters must use it to look for­ward to iden­ti­fy oppor­tu­ni­ties and gaps in the mar­ket.

4. Younger People Have A New Perspective On Personalization

Sanchez point­ed out that younger gen­er­a­tions have dif­fer­ent expec­ta­tions from brands than their fore­bears and may be less both­ered by per­son­al­ized con­tent that might seem creepy to old­er con­sumers.

To wit: Han­d­ley added, “I have an 18-year-old daugh­ter who is now annoyed that she’s being retar­get­ed about a gift she bought for her aunt. She doesn’t see [per­son­al­iza­tion] as inva­sive. She sees it as a ser­vice.”

5. Cater Website Content To Specific Site Visitors

Per­son­al­iza­tion goes beyond retar­get­ing and cater­ing con­tent to spe­cif­ic plat­forms.

In fact, Harsh­man argued brands are remiss in not per­son­al­iz­ing their web­sites, too.

A web­site is a mas­sive asset that goes under­uti­lized when it comes to per­son­al­iza­tion,” Harsh­man said. “The same vis­i­tor gets the same expe­ri­ence no mat­ter how they came to your site. I’d argue the one-size-fits-all web­site is dead. And also lazy.”

Per Harsh­man, brands can per­son­al­ize con­tent to spe­cif­ic con­sumers based on:

  • Con­tex­tu­al data, or how site vis­i­tors arrived.
  • Demo­graph­ic data, or details like gen­der and phys­i­cal loca­tion.
  • Behav­ioral data, or what behav­iors the vis­i­tor has per­formed on the site.

6. Test Different Content To See What Resonates

Harsh­man encour­aged brands to “flex [their] A/B test­ing mus­cles” to see how to move the nee­dle for a giv­en audi­ence seg­ment.

She used the exam­ple of a media site that offers new vis­i­tors an onboard­ing expe­ri­ence with a site tour while ask­ing return vis­i­tors to sign up for an email newslet­ter. A retail site, on the oth­er hand, could tar­get con­sumers locat­ed in a spe­cif­ic geo­graph­ic area with local in-store pick-up options and a site vis­i­tor who has not vis­it­ed in 90 days with a pro­mo­tion­al offer for a lim­it­ed-time dis­count.

Think about the audi­ences you can iden­ti­fy right now, what expe­ri­ences you would deliv­er to them, and come up with lists of hypothe­ses,” Harsh­man said.

7. Don’t Over-Segment Your Audiences

While tar­get­ing is great, Harsh­man also warned mar­keters not to slice their audi­ences too thin, or brands will end up with a con­tent prob­lem because they must show each audi­ence some­thing dif­fer­ent.

She used the exam­ple of retar­get­ing and per­for­mance mar­ket­ing plat­form AdRoll, which want­ed to encour­age vis­i­tors from enter­pris­es to get on the phone with sales reps and vis­i­tors from SMBs to request tri­als. The brand there­fore adjust­ed the lan­guage on its web­site slight­ly based on whether the site vis­i­tor was com­ing from one of these two groups and what behav­ior it want­ed to encour­age as a result.

8. Be Responsible

Don’t be creepy” is a sen­ti­ment repeat­ed again and again by mar­ket­ing experts when talk­ing about per­son­al­iza­tion.

On Face­book, you know the age of a mother’s child, which is pret­ty gran­u­lar,” said Brit­tany Richter, nation­al direc­tor of paid social for mar­ket­ing agency iProspect. “You want to use that in a way that is not creepy…so how do we do it in a way that pro­vides val­ue?”

But it’s not just about val­ue, Richter said. If brands use data in ways that make con­sumers feel uncom­fort­able, those con­sumers will even­tu­al­ly tune out and ad plat­forms will stop allow­ing it.

If [plat­forms] don’t have users, we don’t have inven­to­ry and the whole thing falls apart,” she added.

9. Transparency Is Your Friend

Just because mar­keters can col­lect cer­tain types of data doesn’t mean they should, accord­ing to Rachel Glass­er, direc­tor of dig­i­tal pri­va­cy and part­ner acti­va­tion for adver­tis­ing media com­pa­ny GroupM. In oth­er words, Glass­er said brands and plat­forms should be clear with con­sumers about what they’re col­lect­ing, how they’re using it, and whether they’re shar­ing it.

Con­sumers don’t mind shar­ing data, but they’re com­fort­able if they know who they’re shar­ing it with and how it will be used,” Glass­er said. “When com­pa­nies have more covert prac­tices and are not as hon­est, it tends to piss cus­tomers off a bit and they lose trust and loy­al­ty, which deval­ues the expe­ri­ence and has a domi­no effect. Be trans­par­ent, give cus­tomers the choice, and you’ll start to see rewards.”

10. Provide Value

Coca-Cola’s Get Hap­py com­mu­ni­ty allows con­sumers to con­nect with retail­ers and col­lect dig­i­tal stamps. A user can share where he or she likes to drink Coke prod­ucts and which spe­cif­ic Coke brands he or she likes as well as the things that make him or her hap­pi­est, such as music, the out­doors, bas­ket­ball and amuse­ment parks, said Michael Peachey, vice pres­i­dent of solu­tions mar­ket­ing at Sales­force.

They’ve rede­fined the way they run their rewards pro­gram with rich cus­tomer data,” Peachey added. “And then con­nect with us in more per­son­al ways than ever before.”

That also includes send­ing per­son­al­ized reward offers even when con­sumers are in stores, so Coke is able to cut through noise and deliv­er rich, engag­ing expe­ri­ences.

Harsh­man agreed brands shouldn’t go per­son­al sim­ply to be per­son­al. Like any mar­ket­ing tac­tic, there has to be some added val­ue.

The new fron­tier isn’t scale, it’s per­son­al­iza­tion,” said Shel­ley Bransten, senior vice pres­i­dent of the retail indus­try at Sales­force.

She used the exam­ple of McDonald’s, which lever­ages tons of cus­tomer data from pro­mo­tions like Monop­oly and Cre­ate Your Taste to dri­ve per­son­al­ized adver­tis­ing as well.

Where do you see the biggest mar­ket­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for per­son­al­ized con­tent?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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