What is Personalization and How to Use It in Marketing

Everywhere you look, brands are embracing personalization.

From the ads that pop up on your social media feed to the barista at the local coffee shop who greets you by name, customers are growing increasingly accustomed to personalized experiences. While personalization isn't a new concept, recent advances in technology have transformed how and where it can be used.

Whether your audience is interacting with your brand through social media, on your website, or by email, they have come to expect a personalized experience that makes them feel valued and prioritized.

In one study, 70% of users reported feelings of frustration when website content was not personalized. Another concluded that personalized email marketing has the potential to generate an average ROI of 122%.

Incorporating personalization into your marketing strategy is vital if you want to increase customer engagement and conversions. But first, you must understand what personalization is and how it can help you improve your business.

In this personalization in marketing guide, you’ll discover:

What is marketing personalization?

Personalization is defined as the process of using data to target and retarget leads with a brand message that speaks directly to specific customers’ interests, demographics, and buying behavior.

With a personalized marketing strategy, your customers should feel like the brand message was made just for them. So personalized marketing may sometimes be called one-to-one or individual marketing.

Companies like Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube use personalization tactically — using an algorithm to automate suggested products, shows and videos for you to explore. These recommendations are based on what you search, purchase and watch, and on the viewing habits of other users with similar tastes.

However, personalization isn't just for digital channels, and customer engagement is only one benefit of personalization.

Customers are more likely to revisit their favorite hotels, cafes, or salons if they feel they are being delivered a targeted, personalized user experience. They’ll show loyalty to brands that make them feel special.

Integrating personalization into your overall marketing efforts will allow you to connect with leads in a more meaningful way at all stages throughout their buyer journey, resulting in:

Solutions such as Adobe Marketo Engage make marketing personalization easier and more effective than ever before.

Why you need to personalize your marketing.

The main reason for personalizing your marketing is that customers expect it.

Personalization is the difference between your customers feeling like you are speaking directly to them versus feeling like just a number.

Whether you're looking to personalize one component of your strategy or transform your entire marketing plan, your business can benefit from a personalized approach in many ways:

Better connection with customers.

It's estimated that the average person will see around 1,700 advertisements each month. Your message must cut through the noise — not by being louder, but by being more relevant.

For instance, with personalized emails that incorporate your leads’ names and other tailored additions, your email is six times as likely to convert, according to Campaign Monitor. What’s more, 73% of customers say they’d rather do business with brands who personalize their email comms.

Increased revenue.

Personalized shopping experiences encourage consumers to become repeat buyers, and brands that create personalized experiences see a spike in transactional rates, buyer retention, and revenue per transaction.

It also shows up in their bottom line: one study suggested that personalized marketing can boost revenue by up to 15%. And on the contrary, a lack of personalization can damage your brand: it's suggested that 63% of consumers are highly annoyed when brands rely on old-fashioned, generic ad messaging.

Improved buyer targeting.

When do your customers like to be contacted? How much contact do they want? Eighty-one percent of consumers prefer when brands understand when and how to approach them and keep a respectful distance, so getting to know your audience is a key part of personalization.

Stronger brand reputation.

People buy from brands that provide them with a customer experience that makes them feel good. Showing that you understand your customers' emotions will make them want to do business with you.

Take a brand like the pet company Chewy, which tracks orders and reacts to their customers’ buying behaviors with tailored communication efforts.

If they discover that a customer stops ordering because of their pet’s death, they will reach out personally to offer condolences. This kind of personal experience makes a lasting impression and will endear a brand to its customers long-term.

Enhanced lead generation.

When you solve your target audience's problems, it builds trust and makes your customers more willing to provide feedback and information.

Although a significant proportion (43%) of consumers say they aren’t willing to provide personal data, 63% say they might be willing to do so if they truly value the product or service being offered.

In addition, 63% of millennials, 58% of Gen Xers, and 46% of Baby Boomers reported that as long as their information was used responsibly, they were willing to share it with brands and companies for personalized offers or discounts.

More effective customer retargeting.

The reality is customers won't buy from you right away. It can take multiple interactions before leads are willing to make a purchase. However, personalization allows you to begin nurturing a relationship, making consumers excited about doing business with you.

62% of consumers say that personalized content makes them more likely to look for more information or content about a brand. The more positive experiences your leads have, the closer they move to become a loyal customer.

How to get started with marketing personalization.

Personalization is essential to the success of your marketing strategy.

But even if you have access to customer data and the right tools, you may still be wondering where to begin.

We've put together a quick step-by-step guide to help you on your path to marketing personalization.

Step 1: Define your personalization strategy.

There are many different online marketing channels and stages of the marketing funnel where personalized marketing can be effective.

In terms of developing your personalized marketing approach, you might want to look first at the different marketing objectives and stages of the consumer journey:

You next might want to think about the best channels for achieving the personalization you want to see at each stage of the journey.

It's becoming increasingly possible to personalize a wide number of marketing channels, including social media, search and display.

However, the most effective channels for personalized marketing remain email marketing and your website.

Personalizing your website.

When personalizing your website, focus on aligning its elements with your target demographic to meet their needs.

For example, you can use a visitor’s IP address to create a tailored header or greeting. And consider placing a personalized call-to-action on your site that encourages leads to click through to another page, sign up for an emailing list, or check out your shop.

You can also highlight relevant products or service features, recommend solutions to common concerns the customer might have, and even create a blog with targeted content that engages your leads based on their interests, demographics, and behavioral data.

Email marketing.

Generic emails are a thing of the past. To your leads, an impersonal email is no different than spam. It provides little value and may even be flagged as junk mail.

Personalizing emails can boost ROI, result in improved engagement, and help to create relevant content. Proven strategies include segmenting your mailing list, utilizing targeted messaging, tracking behavior, or retargeting abandoned cart shoppers.

In your marketing campaigns, you can also use pop culture references that customers will find funny or send friendly birthday emails and coupons to build stronger, more personal relationships with your consumer base.

Step 2: Plan how you're going to capture and use data.

Without good data, you can't create effective personalization strategies.

You know the data you're likely to need to execute your personalization strategy outlined in Step 1. But how do you capture that data, and how do you make it available to your marketing team or technology stack at the right time?

There are a variety of ways of capturing data, that might include:

Keep in mind that consumers want to give consent and be informed of when you're tracking their data.

It's important to disclose that you monitor user data and offer your consumers the chance to opt-out or give information at will to build trust and transparency between your brand and your consumers. Allowing your customers to create profiles or accounts is one way to do this.

However, the challenge is often not capturing the data but making sure it can be used effectively. This takes us to Step 3.

Step 3: Confirm the technology stack.

It's likely that your customer relationship management software (CRM) will become the hub for all the customer information gathered from sales calls, third-party data providers, and lead capture forms in one place.

Your CRM will automatically update prospect information, so your marketing team and technologies always has access to accurate data in real-time.

There are specialist technologies that can help deliver personalized content across different marketing channels.

For example, there are display personalization specialists, email personalization specialists, basket abandonment personalization specialists, paid search personalization specialists, etc.

It's entirely possible to hook up your CRM to various tools to deliver different personalization across different channels.

However, it's often more effective and simpler to manage all your personalized marketing from a single marketing personalization and automation solution, such as Adobe Marketo Engage.

Step 4: Develop and activate.

After doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, it's time to look at the specifics of your personalization campaigns and activate them.

Depending on your technology decision, you're likely to have options on whether you want to set manual rules for things like product recommendations or whether you want to entrust the personalization to AI.

You'll also have decisions to make around visuals for any campaigns, the specifics of any messaging, and the frequency and timing of any cross-sell and remarketing campaigns.

Step 5: Test and refine.

Once your personalized marketing campaign is live, it's time to test and refine in the pursuit of continuous improvement.

You can monitor certain areas of your website or email campaigns that use personalization to understand where the most effective tests might be executed.

A good way to test personalized marketing is A/B testing, where you can compare how various audiences respond to different messages.

Unlock the benefits of personalization with marketing automation.

Personalization is essential to the success of your marketing strategy.

However, to gather, analyze, and apply your consumer information, you'll need to pair your personalization efforts with marketing automation to engage with your customers across channels consistently and efficiently.

With Marketo Engage, you can not only identify and segment your most promising leads by interests and behavior but also tailor your lead nurturing process. From initial contact to point-of-sale, Marketo lets you adjust your messaging for each prospect based on consumer insights and level of engagement.

Marketo Engage’s real-time personalization, audience targeting, and content optimization features will position your business to create impactful campaigns that encourage buyers to take action without demanding more from your team.

Frequently asked questions about personalization in marketing.

What does personalization mean in marketing?

In marketing, personalization means using data and analytics to create tailored content to each individual customer. This could include a tailored advert based on search history, a personalized email message or a landing page that surfaces specific content based on user behavior.

Why do we like personalization?

Tailored customizable content is a key factor in enjoyment and engagement in advertising, according to one University of Texas study. This is due in part to our desire to feel in control of our online experience.

What is a personalization strategy?

A personalization strategy is about identifying different customer segments and creating content, experiences and messaging to fit their needs. This could include approaching a customer who has left items in their shopping basket with an incentive to finish their transaction, for example.