Practical Personalization: How To Connect With Your Customers In A Way That Resonates

Feb 7, 2020

Mike Rowan, President, Founder @KPItarget 

This article originally appeared on

Personalized messaging is all the rage in marketing these days. In fact, tailored communication is no longer just appreciated by customers; it’s expected.

According to an Accenture Interactive survey, “91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember and provide relevant offers and recommendations.” A seemingly large percentage of consumers (83%) “are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience.” The same study found that 48% of consumers left websites and made purchases elsewhere because the sites were not curated to their tastes and interests.

While it clearly works, effective personalization can be difficult to achieve. Misaligned targeting and relevance are key challenges. For example, someone may be purchasing an item for a gift, in which case the product may not align with their own interests or reflect the types of products and deals they’d personally be interested in.

And then there’s the creep factor. Businesses have to make their customers feel seen and understood without making them feel like they’re being spied on. It’s a fine line.

By definition, personalization isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Practical personalization is built from the customer’s perspective, rather than the company’s. It’s an ongoing process that must be continuously refined.

What Is Practical Personalization?

Practical personalization is a client-centric approach that requires ongoing effort. It’s an open conversation with customers in which marketers must adjust and improve as they get more information about an individual’s preferences and intentions.

Here’s what it’s not: guessing. Plenty of marketers are guilty of whipping together a campaign based on a creative whim, throwing it out there and seeing what sticks.

It’s also not half-baked. A lot of marketers love the idea of personalization but don’t quite take it far enough to be effective. Without a complete picture, personalization is difficult to pull off.

Say, for example, you’re visiting Atlanta and purchase tickets from a ticketing app to see the Braves play your Dodgers. Now, all of a sudden, you’re getting inundated with promos and offers for Braves merchandise and game tickets. Only, you’re not a Braves fan.

At best, misaligned messages are ignored. At worst, they can turn someone off completely, inspiring them to take their business elsewhere. This misfire could have been avoided with just a little bit more information, which could have been collected with a simple question or two at checkout: Who’s your home team? Better yet, how would you prefer to hear about your home team: email, social post or display ad? Practical personalization is about engaging customers with the right content, at the right time, through their preferred communication channels. Here’s how to get started:

Segment Your Audiences

The first step to practical personalization is to know your audience. You can’t tailor your messaging unless you know a little bit about the preferences of the people you’re talking to. The key, of course, is to collect customer data.

This can be as simple as keeping tabs on purchase history or installing cookies to track what prospective customers are browsing. While this type of data is only the tip of the iceberg, it’s a good starting point for segmentation.

Grouping your audiences into distinct groups based on factors like what they’ve purchased, where they live, or demographics like age or gender is an effective way to tailor your messaging.

According to MailChimp, segmented emails see much higher open and click rates. In fact, the click rate of segmented emails is a whopping 100.95% higher than its nonsegmented counterpart.

Unfortunately, many marketers stop at audience segmentation. Practical personalization goes much further to consider not only messaging, but how it’s delivered.

Open Up A Dialogue

Collecting general data can help you identify intent and personalize your messaging — to a point. To provide practical personalization, you have to start a conversation with your customers. It’s about having the guts to ask them about their preferences, along with how they want to be communicated with — and having the tact to do it without turning them off.

There are many ways to open up this kind of dialogue, from simple to truly innovative. The check-out process is a natural place where a company can ask its customers about their preferences.

Do you sell a product that needs to be registered? There’s another opportunity to ask about likes (or dislikes) when you gather basic registration info. Customer service is another logical place to open up this type of dialogue. The key to a productive conversation? Don’t overdo it. Your customers are much more likely to be willing to answer a question or two than an extensive survey.

Some innovative companies are going beyond direct questioning to offer a truly personalized shopping experience. For example, Fabletics connects the online and offline shopping experiences with interactive fitting rooms.

The system, called omnicart, helps Fabletics track individual customer preferences by keeping tabs on every item that goes into the dressing room — and putting nonrejected items into the customer’s online shopping cart so they can purchase them later from home.

Refine Your Messaging, And Repeat

The more data you collect about your customers’ preferences, intentions and actions, the more your personalized messaging will resonate. It’s your job to keep the conversation going and refine your messaging as you gather more information.

customer data platform (CDP) can help you organize and manage all of the customer data you collect and make it easier to integrate the information into your marketing efforts.

At its best, practical personalization makes your customers feel like you truly know and understand them. Beyond building loyal fans of your brand, this can help you get precisely the right product in front of them at exactly the right time to inspire a purchase.

Opening up the lines of communication is the first step to winning the trust of your customers. And once they begin to feel seen, heard and communicated with in a way that they’re comfortable with — and even appreciate — your brand will win their attention.

If you’d like to chat about personalizing your marketing in a way that resonates, contact me at