Marketing Personalization for Online Retailers

Online retail is undergoing a growth period right now. The covid-19 pandemic opened the door for retailers to replace high street stores which had been forced to close. Although a temporary situation, it led to more people being introduced to the world of shopping online. The convenience of online retail cannot be overlooked, and all market sectors are now extremely competitive.
All online retail store owners will understand the importance of quality marketing. The need to get a brand seen by the right consumers is essential. With competitors doing the same, it’s vital to be the one that stands out. This is not an easy process, yet there is one area of online marketing that can give a brand a head start: personalization.

What do we mean when we talk about personalization in marketing? Why is it so important and, most essential of all, how do you go about personalizing your marketing campaigns? All of these questions will be answered in the article that follows, and we will also look at six key areas in which personalization is effective. Let’s begin by defining what we mean by personalized marketing.

Marketing Personalization

Table of Contents

What does personalized marketing mean?

When we think of personalization, we automatically think of names. Surely to personalize marketing is to use a consumer’s name in an email or message? That’s just one aspect of what is a much broader part of the marketing concept.
Let’s take a step back in time to the pre-Internet days. Marketing before the digital age would have been by adverts in the press, on TV, on the radio, and on billboards. Plus a method that is still used today – the mail. Mailshots are a useful way of getting information to the public, yet they have always been unreliable.
In the early days of email marketing, the promotional material would simply be sent to a number of addresses bought from a register. This wasteful method might see, for example, a lawnmower offered to someone living in a high-rise apartment. In other words, a consumer who has no interest in or need for the product.
Direct mail became more streamlined as more detailed information about consumers became available. Mail could be targeted by age groups, geographic location, and many more factors.
Now think about the above in terms of online marketing: are you targeting the right consumers or customers, or is much of your marketing simply going to a wide range of people, many of whom will not be interested? That’s what we mean by personalization in marketing: getting the word out to the right customer.
Personalized marketing, aka. one-to-one marketing is one of the marketing strategies that use customer data and technology to deliver a relevant message or offers to current or prospective customers.
Let’s move on and talk about why this is particularly important.

Why is marketing personalization important?

There are many reasons why personalization in online marketing is important, but there is one simple reason that is perhaps the most important: consumers expect it. The modern consumer wants to be treated as an individual whether they are buying a product or service. They expect to be treated to excellent customer service and to enjoy a personalized experience.
Here are some interesting statistics regarding email marketing – consumers are 29% more likely to open a personalized email than a non-personalized one, and 41% more likely to click through.
Furthermore, studies have proven that consumers expect some form of personalized communication within an hour of identifying themselves with a brand. More than 25% expect personalized recommendations, for example, while over 30% expect to be offered a welcome discount.
Figures such as these are not to be overlooked, and there are many more examples that prove the effectiveness of personalization in making a brand more attractive to the consumer.
Personalized marketing is not only about bringing a prospective customer on board, it’s also about engaging with your target audience and your existing customers. There are many aspects to cover, so let’s move on to look at the most effective ways to personalize your marketing.

How do you personalize your marketing?

There is no one way to personalize online marketing. To do so effectively requires many different areas to be involved. We’ll talk about using available tools shortly, but first, let’s outline the six most important areas that you need to attend to for effective marketing.
These are:
We’ll look at each in some detail now and talk about how to streamline your marketing and personalization in a moment, but before we move on, we need to examine the core aspect of the process which is customer data gathering.
Bearing in mind the importance of personalized marketing for enriching the customer experience i.e., their satisfaction and boosting online sales, many marketers turn to certain tactics. At the very beginning of this process is collecting more data, then choosing the suitable personalization platform, and connecting it with your customer relationship management.
Besides helping you maintain customer relationships, data management platforms can also help you create a personalized experience for your customers. To create relevant personalized experiences, you should dive deep into your data management platform to pull in data about your customers from various sources such as websites, apps, social media, transaction history, and more.

Consumer data collection

To enable personalized marketing campaigns, you need to gather data about your customers. Furthermore, the better-quality data, the more successful personalized marketing strategy will be. There are four main types of data that need to be analyzed to gain insight into your customers and help you design personalized marketing campaigns, so let’s talk about each one, and how to collect the data.
Consumer data collection

Personal data

Personal data gathering is a delicate subject. There are laws that prevent online businesses from collecting certain personal data unless the consumer agrees to it. However, simple personal information such as name and address is essential to a business transaction. User data also extends to gender and can include IP addresses and web browser cookies, as well as device IDs, each of these being non-personally identifiable information.
Personal information of this type is often collected using a direct approach – asking the consumer to register with your store or fill in sign-up forms – but there are other indirect methods. Localized data gathering can be performed using an IP address, for example, and data gathering by way of competitions and other promotions is a common method of getting a name, address, email, and phone number for your customer base.
Social media networks are also a good method of gathering enough data – there are in fact tools you can purchase that enable you to draw data directly from your customers’ social media profiles – and can inadvertently give away a lot of information about the potential customers. This brings us to the next form of data that you need to gather and analyze.
Personal data


Engagement data

How does a consumer react to your website? What pages are they looking at, and how long for? What sort of engagement are your targeted ads creating, and how much attention does your text message marketing gain? The way in which a consumer engages with all the above and with emails, social media pages, and paid ads is important to you. If one area performs notably better than the rest, perhaps that’s where your focus should lie?
You also need to know how customers use your customer support service, and how happy they are with the service provided. As we said earlier, the modern consumer expects the highest levels of service and no less. There are many tools that can be installed to gather data such as this, and we recommend that you start with Google Analytics. This tool is adept at analyzing age and gender, and there are others that are excellent in location data gathering.
Understanding how your visitors and recipients to your marketing efforts engage is vital if you are to get the best out of your efforts. There is little point in launching a personalized marketing campaign and simply leaving it to run. Machine learning apps are useful in this area as, of course, it is not possible for one person or a team to accurately analyze large amounts of data quickly. Artificial intelligence software can do the job for you, and convert numbers into the information you need to know.

Behavioral data

This ties in with engagement data in many ways but can be considered an analysis of information beyond interaction with the website. For example, you may find past purchases are a useful indicator of a consumer’s behavior. Do they routinely buy the same product, or are they often coming back to the same page?
Where do they spend the most time on your website, and which of your social media channels do they respond to most readily? This type of information allows you to create custom messaging, tailored content, personalized emails, and targeted ads to specific groups of customers who perhaps visit the same page or buy the same or similar products frequently. You can target them with a new product line, for example, or with offers that will appeal to products they want or need.

Attitudinal data

This can be a complex area of data gathering, yet it is a surprisingly informative one. When we talk about attitudinal data, we are looking at customer satisfaction, at the way your products influence and attract them. It’s also about what inspires them to buy a particular product or service, and what makes them buy from you and not the competition.
This sort of data can be sought by asking the customer to rate your performance and products and suggest ways you could improve the service. You might need to add a little sweetener to encourage them to participate – a discount on the next order, perhaps, or entry into a competition – and as this information can be of great help in streamlining and improving the consumer journey it is worth putting the time in.
Before we move on, we’ll summarize the methods of gathering data for all the above.

Methods of gathering data

E-commerce businesses use many methods to gather data such as the above, so here’s a list of some of the most commonly used:
The final one on the list-purchasing information – is a throwback to the pre-Internet days we mentioned early on, and there are companies that create lists for sale. This raises a point we have to talk about before we go any further, which is the various data privacy laws.
Methods of gathering data

Data privacy laws and regulations

Most if not all online retailers will need to comply with either the General Data Protection Requirements (GDPR) and/or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The GDPR was put in place by the European Union (EU) and applies to any business gathering or targeting data on European citizens, whether or not that business is within the EU. All websites need to include a GDPR advisory notice that the consumer acknowledges, and to abide by the regulations as to what can and cannot be stored or sold on.
Now we move on to the various aspects of your marketing that need to be personalized for the best results.
Data privacy laws and regulations

What is personalized content?

Every successful online business should have personalized content as a part of its marketing strategy. The personalization strategy utilizes specific information about consumers to create a distinct and unique experience between you and your customers.
personalized content

Website personalization

The concept of website personalization is similar to that which you would become used to in a brick and mortar retail environment: the shopkeeper who knows what you buy regularly and greets you by name, for example, or regular diners being similarly treated when arriving at a restaurant.
How does this translate to a website? We talked above about behavioral personalization, and this is very much in that area. The data gathered in that area can be used to provide a more personal approach by the retailer. For example, by using past purchases as a data source, you can direct your customers to the product range they prefer.
Website personalization


You could also use such information for targeted discounts and deals when people visit the website, through pop-ups and automated messages. This sort of personalized approach can also be used, for example, by travel companies that can target customers with respect to the local weather. News providers may also use personalization based on a consumer’s viewing habits and target them with videos relevant to that or even their locality.
The best methods of website personalization are achieved by way of machine learning and AI automation. This is one reason why data gathering is essential for a worthwhile and effective marketing strategy. Remember the key point here is the expectation of the consumer. We keep mentioning that today’s consumer expects a high standard and an enjoyable consumer experience, and personalization goes a long way to achieving this.

Chat personalization

The first thing to say about live chat personalization is that consumers do not like automated bots. They want to be able to speak to an actual person. However, there is a lot to be said for gathering information in the form of a request before transferring the customer to an agent, and this can be automated. Industry experts suggest the following information should be requested:
Depending upon the service you provide some if not all of the above will be useful to forward the inquiry to the right person. Live chat software can usually be optimized to deliver the initial request and find the right person to transfer to. It’s when a live chat begins properly that personalization becomes important. Here are our tips to ensuring the customer is given satisfactory personalized service.
Arguably, all of the above is common sense, and all apply whether your live chat is in text or via audio. The key to getting chat personalization right lies in the initial data gathering questions, which should put you on a good footing to deliver what is required.
Before we move on, recent research discovered that 77% of customers appreciate when you show your appreciation, so always end a chat by thanking the customer for their time.

Email marketing personalization

Email marketing is one of the most-used tactics as part of a personalized marketing strategy. Of course, an email is already part of personalized marketing when sent as it is to a personal address, but there is much more you can do to ensure your email marketing is targeted correctly. There are three main elements to email personalized campaigns, and they are relevance, timing, and the personal touch. Let’s talk about each.
analyze and segment your email database

Relevance in email marketing

When we mention relevance we’re talking about making an email worth opening for a specific individual or group. In the early part of this article, we talked about the difference between targeted mailshots and general and transferring the model to digital marketing. We also talked about data gathering in all forms.
Email software can be surprisingly impressive in terms of personalizing a message. You have data on what customers usually buy, so you can use that to send them personalized content about special offers on the products they often purchase. If the description line includes the information that makes the email relevant to them, they are more likely to open it. Bear in mind the average work in-box sees 120 emails a day, and many of those will go in the trash.
Make your email one that gets opened by getting the point across in the description line.

Timing in email marketing

An email sent at the right time will always garner better results. What do we mean here? Let’s say a customer looks for a particular solution on your website or keeps returning to a certain page. Your tracking software gives you this information, so you can put together an email to send to the customer at that point in their consumer journey. Perhaps something along the lines of ‘We see you are interested in … we can offer you and give them an incentive to purchase.
This is also a good tactic to overcome shopping cart abandonment, which remains a problem for online retailers. When your software informs you of an abandoned cart, an email asking what you can do to help may entice them back.

Be personal in email marketing

Use a picture of the person sending the email and also make that person a relevant one to the consumer. If, for example, the customer is handled by a certain agent, put the agent’s name in the sender box. Also, bear in mind that a consumer is much more likely to open an email that has their name on the description.

Onsite search personalization

This simple yet impressive technique is often overlooked by online retailers. We’ve mentioned the concept before so will keep it brief. By using your user data about their behavior and purchase history, you can direct certain visitors to relevant landing pages. This is done via software that handles the process for you, and also gives the consumer a sense of being appreciated and understood.

Social media personalization

There are multiple ways to use personalization in your social media marketing. You can create personalized campaigns to target new customers or remarketing campaigns to reach repeat customers with a different message. You can show them dynamic ads of the same product they had checked on your site earlier, or after they made a purchase, you can show them ads of additional products. If you segment your customer base, you can get even more personal.

Online advertising personalization

Personalized ads based on customer behavior, location, or demographic data are the digital equivalent to streamlined and targeted direct mail. This method takes the relevance of content to the full extent, and we have talked about relevance in emails. The same concept applies here – your audience is more likely to respond to the relevant messaging.

Omnichannel personalization

Our final brief section is about omnichannel personalization. This is the use of all communication and processing channels to enable a smooth and enjoyable consumer journey. An example would be the consumer being able to check inventory and reserve an item and pay for it later when convenient. Or the online live chat agent is able to access the customers’ past preferences and personalize the experience as we discussed.


There is more to personalized marketing than simply using a consumer’s name, and we hope that this article has enabled you to understand better some of the methods used, and how they benefit your online retail business. By implementing personalization in your marketing practice, you will impact customers’ buying process to boost sales, increasing customer retention and lifetime value.

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