If you asked someone ten years ago what makes a great retailer, they’d probably say it’s the products.

Before the days of smartphones, AI-driven marketing platforms and next-day online deliveries, a few good products were all a retailer needed to succeed.

In today’s market, the demands of the customer have changed. Consumers want more than just an exceptional product—they want an enhanced shopping experience.

One of the ways that brick-and-mortar and e-commerce brands have been able to deliver this is through personalized marketing.

What is personalized marketing?

When you think of personalization, you probably think of things like first names featured in email subject lines and automated email campaigns sent on a customer’s birthday.

But true personalized marketing goes far beyond that, ultimately seeking to build authentic and individualized connections with customers and would-be buyers.

Marketing Personalization: Target the individual, not the segment

So, how does individualized marketing work?

Whether you know it as individualized or personalized marketing, the concept of this one-to-one marketing style takes personalization to the next level. Instead of targeting personas —audience segments that share similar traits—individualized marketing targets individual persons. It’s a strategy that removes the barrier separating brands from their consumers and gets back to what marketing is supposed to be: interacting with individuals.

By collecting data on every individual customer that accesses your online marketplace or brick-and-mortar store, you can start to pick up on personal trends that set that one customer apart from another—even those in the same segment. This is important for understanding the overall needs, expectations, and preferences of your customers.

This customer data can help you better understand:

  • What your customers are looking for when they visit your store
  • How you can satisfy your customers and give them a positive purchasing experience
  • How you can help them overcome the various pain points they may experience

The key benefit of individualized marketing is that it enables you to get in touch with your customers’ perspectives on a one-to-one basis, which is something mere segmentation has been unable to do.

But that’s not to say implementing a personalized marketing strategy is easy. It takes careful planning and the right customer identity marketing technology.

How to personalize your marketing approach

If your goal is to truly make your marketing approach personalized, to start, you need to get to know your customers better.

This extends beyond a few automated features designed to personalize messages and send automated email marketing — it requires you to get to know your customers’ individual identities, understanding what informs their purchasing decisions and how you can help them overcome problems that may arise.

Let’s explore how you can do that in a bit more detail.

1. Avoid keeping your data in silos

Building a successful identity-based marketing strategy from the ground up requires data collection and creation of customer profiles. Data like your customers’ purchase histories and information about previous touch points should be included in these profiles, and that information needs to be distributed across all platforms involved in your marketing process. Otherwise, it’ll be impossible to effectively track a customer’s identity and give them the custom-tailored response they want and expect.

One way you can achieve this is by adopting an omni-channel approach, which we’ll cover in a bit. It’s also a good idea to actively share information with your external partners by unloading all internal and external data into a secure, centralized location.

2. Know what your customers want

Once you’ve collected data, you still need to know how to use it before you can get the most out of your personalized marketing campaign. This is where customer identity solutions become effective.

As many as 80% of customers abandon brands due to bad experiences. While the majority of those unfavorable experiences are related to poor customer service, nearly 20% of customers express frustration with brands that don’t accommodate the customer’s personal needs.

A solid customer identity solution helps to eliminate many of the problems that stem from a lack of customer awareness. By compiling offline and online customer data from various platforms, you’re able to get a better sense of what the customer expects from your brand. And from there, you’re far less likely to overwhelm them with irrelevant advertisements, leading to an improved customer experience.

3. Don’t rely solely on segmentation

Did you know that roughly 80% of customers give preference to brands that offer personalized experiences?

It’s no surprise that brands are spending more time building marketing strategies that focus on personalization—but not every company gets it right. For personalized marketing to be effective, it has to connect with the shopper on a personal level.

Despite its popularity, segmentation often prevents this from happening. The problem with segmentation is that it lumps customers into categories based on a few broad generalizations, like these:

  • Male customers are more likely to buy this product
  • This customer bought X, so she’ll probably also be interested in buying Y
  • People in this age range aren’t interested in buying X

Unlike personalization, which looks at the individual’s purchasing history and interactions, segmentation makes assumptions about specific demographics based on general data.

As a result, customers are often presented with irrelevant information because they were lumped into groups based on factors like their age, gender, zip code, and so on. For this reason, segmentation can actually work against personalization, rather than help with building an individualized marketing approach.

This can be applied to everything from personalizing landing pages, making product recommendations and even unifying your marketing messages leveraging machine learning in a way similar to Amazon.

4. Learn from your customer interactions

Every touchpoint is a chance for you to learn more about your customer and optimize your strategy accordingly. For example: if you have a customer who returns a purchase because they didn’t like the way it worked, there’s a high likelihood they won’t be interested in similar products. This interaction is a perfect opportunity to give the customer a custom-tailored shopping experience.

Start by asking why the customer is returning the product. You can then use that information to influence their subsequent interactions.

For example: if a customer returned an item because they discovered they don’t need it, consider hiding similar products when the customer visits your website, or remove the product from their recommendations. Not only does this ensure that the individual isn’t flooded with irrelevant information every time they browse your website, it also shows them that you’ve paid attention to their feedback and adjusted your content to suit their needs and expectations.

Another touchpoint example is social media. By using feedback from customers online, you can better adapt your marketing strategy— you’ll be striving more towards performance marketing from the feedback.

For example, the feedback from customer interactions will give you the information needed for product updates. These updates will make future customers happy and perhaps help steer customers who are trying to cancel to remain a loyal customer.

5. Adopt the omni-channel approach

Personalization and omni-channel marketing go hand in hand. Omni-channel marketing successfully optimizes the customer’s purchasing journey across platforms by allowing customers to continue purchases on multiple devices.

For example, customer loyalty can be won by pursuing potential customers across multiple social media networks. For this reason, multichannel initiatives within many of the companies we work with include social media marketing. Leveraging marketing automation to send personalized messages, brands and companies tap into a wealth of customer data, ultimately leading to more conversions.

In other words, someone can begin a purchase on their smartphone and finalize their transaction on their laptop or tablet. To give them a truly personalized experience, it’s important for customer data to be shared across platforms.

This allows the customer’s actions, preferences, and other relevant data to be shared seamlessly across platforms, it makes it easier for brands to create a personalized shopping experience based on the customer’s real-time actions.

Bringing it all together

Companies that have been able to capitalize on the demand for individualization are benefitting tremendously simply because they’ve been able to identify their customers’ needs. By collecting data across all channels of communication, marketing platforms, and applications, brands are able to build an individualized marketing strategy that makes it easier to engage with consumers on a one-to-one basis, increasing customer satisfaction and building trust.

Keep in mind that before you run a personalized marketing campaign, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to individualization. One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is trying to find a magic formula for personalization—it doesn’t exist. For personalized marketing to be effective, it’s essential for brands to constantly collect data and build customer profiles, while also collecting data across platforms.

Personalized marketing fills in the gaps that segmentation leaves behind. Rather than grouping customers into personas, personalized marketing helps companies get to know their customers from ongoing interactions between brand and customer.

Useful for understanding the needs and preferences of the individual, individualization also gives companies the power to adjust marketing strategies in real-time based on customer data.

At its core, shopping is a personal experience. Customers are motivated by a wide range of reasons, and often, buyer personas and market segments fail to look at the various factors that trigger the individual to finalize (or abandon) a purchase. With this information, you can then look at ways to optimize the shopping experience so that customers are more likely to stay loyal to your brand.

Identity-driven retail is the future of marketing for e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. By creating a digital marketing system that acknowledges and caters to the individual, companies can design laser-targeted campaigns that resonate with their target audiences.

Read about how we increased search engine positions by 26 percent for Signal, a leader in personalized marketing: