How Personal is your Personalization?

If you’re like me, your personal email inbox looks like a twitter feed.

As marketers, we should be concerned. It’s a lot of noise. Email inboxes shouldn’t look that way. They should be full of relevant and personal offers that we’re going to act on because they are timed at precisely the point where we need to hear the message they contain.

Unfortunately that’s not the case. To give you a quick profile of my personal inbox, I have nearly 9000 unread emails.

They’re littered with discountWant to deliver a great customer experience? Find out how with great customer data. offers, free shipping, last chances and win-back campaigns. I have several emails where I’ve ‘earned’ a reward somehow, even after not shopping with a vendor for over a year. Some vendors send emails every. single. day. Others send three or more in a single day. With this volume of emails, I will never, ever read them. It’s simply impossible.

Truly personal personalization can break through the noise. And I’d welcome that. When marketing takes into consideration our preferences, transactions, and interactions, it can create a connection between us and the companies and brands we do business with. And, because of the value we gain value from each experience, we pay attention.

Every personalization effort should have a goal to add real value to our overall and individual experiences. Marketing doesn’t want to be a nuisance.

Deep down, marketers realize that personalization is not achieved by including a name in a salutation or with retargeting. Marketers know that personalization requires knowing each of us individually, our preferences, the channels we use, who we work with at the company, the things we buy, when we buy and can even extend into why we buy.  That means data.  Good, clean data. With good, clean data marketers have clear visibility into our needs.

And that visibility helps personalization occur at a deep level of knowledge and insight. For example, that stylish pair of pants I just bought? Help me be more stylish by recommending tops, shoes, and accessories that not only align with my purchase, but also reflect my preferences, where I live, my activities, and the trends that go along with those. How do you find that? Capture my preferences from my past purchases and returns– both in store and online. Ensure your product data is complete and accurate, as well as your inventory levels.

Or simply ask what I like. Then keep that information in my profile to guide me through your products.  Make it easy for me. Use what you know. Update it. Keep it current. Use that information to help with your product strategy.

What if I’m buying something for someone else? Infer it from the deviation in purchase patterns or the knowledge that comes with the ‘this is a gift’ checkbox.

Realize that the option to create an online account with your company may simply mean that I want to be able to track my package and make the returns process easier.  Adjust the tempo of emails based on recency and frequency of click-throughs, forwards, or open rates.

Give your teams permission to break the rules when they need to – not seemingly randomly which causes nothing but confusion and frustration. But give them the right information, guidance, and authority, to make better decisions about when to deviate from policy based on spend history, customer insight, product knowledge, and other information you’ve captured.

And when I do make another purchase? Show me that you know me. Surprise me with that 20% off offer that I missed; or apply that $20 reward coupon that expired last week; or recognize my loyalty to your brand based on the longevity of our relationship with free shipping.  Remember what it means to truly surprise and delight.

Lastly, realize that if it’s a great experience, I’ll be back.  Make it great.

Want to see if you’re ready to do personalized marketing?  Read the blog by my colleague, Jakki Geiger.