Gone are the days of people finding personalization intrusive and creepy. Today’s consumers appreciate — and even expect — personalization. Of more than 2,000 consumers surveyed by Formation.ai, 79% agreed that the more personalization tactics a brand uses, the more loyal they are to that brand. Today’s technology allows marketers to take it even further with deep personalization.

We all have our own individual preferences and patterns. Deep personalization allows for consumer experiences to acknowledge and benefit from that, ensuring they constantly improve over time as companies learn more about individuals. That happens through a combination of people’s complete history with a brand and any contextual clues from a specific moment.

For example, if I’m in the market for a new winter coat, a brand using deep personalization could predict this based on my website browsing behaviors. Real-time insights available can help brands drive deep personalization, informing marketing messages in the future. In addition to sending browse abandonment messages for winter coats — ideally the one I am predicted to purchase — that item can be featured in regular campaign emails, brought to the front of the mobile app and mobile messaging.

Adjusting to Deep Personalization

Consumers are increasingly aware of the data they provide to brands. While they don’t understand every process their data goes through, they do expect to exchange it for relevance. Keeping pace with consumer demands requires an investment in deep personalization.

Deep personalization is a transformation. Brands need to break down silos between marketing, sales, customer service, merchandising, and other channels to create a single experience. It can happen in bits and pieces, but ultimately, it requires full dedication to data-driven, AI-driven marketing.

Deep personalization requires data and content, and the tools to operationalize both of them within and across channels. Brands need to invest in consolidated consumer profiles, make consumer data easy to access across marketing and sales channels, and upgrade to advanced personalization. This is already happening in many industries with the increase of in-house data warehouses, data lakes, data science teams, and more. Companies are also increasingly seeking solutions that connect to these owned data assets in near real-time so that partner technologies are as much a part of this internal ecosystem as possible.

Where Does Deep Personalization Work Best?

Think about your entire customer journey. Deep personalization is best-suited for all of it as it enhances any experience driven by data.

Acquisition touchpoints can be personalized using data from your retained customer base and pre-acquisition engagements with your brand. You can personalize first conversion engagements based on acquisition source, collaborative algorithms, and more. Retention and loyalty engagements can be personalized using the data you have collected from the lifetime of engagement with the individual consumer.

When deploying deep personalization, there are four big things to consider:

Personalization has come a long way since marketers got excited about putting a customer’s first name in a subject line. For a while, the mindset was, the more data, the better. Now there’s a new priority: How do you know you have the right data? 

Your marketing managers have a different concern. They’re aware of all the data they could be using, and many want to be more data-driven. But that data is often stored in different silos. Without the tools to access that data or integrate it, marketers aren’t quite sure how they should use it, even if they could get at it.

But while data is obviously important, personalization doesn’t always require as much of it as you may think. Advanced personalization can leverage real-time data even when there isn’t much information available about an individual customer. What’s more, advanced personalization tactics can earn upwards of $20 for every $1 invested — on top of email marketing’s already-high ROI.

Marketers can adjust their messages based on constantly-changing context. So even with limited information about the behaviors or preferences of a particular customer, the message will still be relevant.

Personalization possibilities with little data

If you think your customers don’t care about getting personalized emails from your brand, better think again. The proof is right there in the numbers, this time in a new report from Formation:

These consumers aren’t talking about the basic tactics for personalized emails like mail-merging their first names into the subject line or greeting or varying content by gender. As the study notes, “75% of consumers said the marketing emails they open frequently contain segmentation, indicating these are now table stakes.”  

That’s a solid conclusion, which concurs with findings Liveclicker reported in 2019 from a study by The Relevancy Group.

The business case for 1:1 personalized emails

That study, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, revealed the business case for advanced personalization: Every $1 you spend on advanced personalization returns at least $20 of additional revenue that’s over and above email’s already amazing ROI of $44.

But, just as basic personalization doesn’t move the needle for consumers, it won’t generate that eye-popping ROI, either. What does? The advanced personalization that shows customers you know who they are as individuals, not just records in your database.

1:1 personalized emails that are cool, not creepy

The Formation study, which studies factors that affect customer loyalty, includes a key data point not often found in personalization studies: 

Personalization tactics that increase engagement and loyalty, such as personalized emails, web sessions and location-based mobile messaging, can also turn customers off.

How you use that personalization can make or break your campaign. Meaningful personalization will increase loyalty, but failures (the dreaded “hello first-name” error, wrong locations, segments or buying/browsing history) can make customers distrust your messages and transfer those ill feelings to your brand.

The solution: Let strategy guide your choices

Personalization succeeds when it creates messages that help your customers shop more successfully, or with fewer frustrations. Start by identifying the pain points you want to address, and then look for ways you can combine real-time moment of open technology with behavior and inventory data that can help take the pain away.

Although there are dozens of ways to use this data for meaningful personalized email, the three suggestions below are all tactics you can test now to see how which can help you achieve better results in the hectic holiday months to come:

1. Real-time shipping progress: Holiday ecommerce will be bigger than ever this year, but if shippers face capacity shortages, that means packages could get delayed unexpectedly. Real-time shipping updates keep your customers in the loop and off the phone to your call centers, wondering where their goodies are.  

2. Live offer and inventory updates: Clicking on an offer in an email and then finding the promotion expired or the product is sold out isn’t just frustrating for customers – it can actually drive them to your competition, looking for a similar deal. Using time of open allows you to swap in a comparable item or substitute a new promotion for an expired one.

3. Local weather: Whether you’re able to start promoting outdoor events, you can help attendees decide whether to attend by letting them know what kind of weather to expect, using both time-of-open and location data. This data can also help you choose appropriate images or product assortments, such as promoting flannel PJs for customers in wintry climates and lighter-weight sleepwear for warmer locations.

Wrapping up

Using data creatively – but appropriately – is your key to the kinds of 1:1 personalization that customers crave and which makes them feel as if you know them without worrying that you’re looking over their shoulders constantly. Testing different levels and uses of personalization now can help you create more effective campaigns, whether you need them for day-to-day marketing or the all-important holiday months.