When Ecommerce Personalization Goes Wrong

At this point, many buyers are used to the personalized ads that appear in emails, on Facebook, and elsewhere online.

As a B2C marketer, you habitually send out emails with subject lines that say “Hi [Your Name]”, offer Facebook ads that show products buyers clicked on, but never bought, and send push notifications based on current location – all in an effort to increase your conversion rates, grow average order value, and create a more relevant, real-time experience for your online shoppers.

Your B2C business relies on this type of technology-driven ecommerce personalization for one reason: it’s incredibly effective. Personalized shopping experiences can reduce acquisition costs by up to 50% and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 30% percent, according to McKinsey.

However, there are times when personalized emails cross an invisible line and goes from effective to unfortunate. When brands are not extremely careful with their marketing segments and targeted messaging, things can quickly go awry.

Learn from these companies how NOT to target consumers, and instead focus on creating more personalized experiences through your email marketing.

Don’t become a tragedy

You may think that at worst, a personalization mistake is a simple error that won’t hurt your marketing results or overall brand reputation. Unfortunately, when ecommerce marketing goes wrong, it can go very, very wrong. Consider the customer experience nightmare scenario below:

ecommerce site, social media

If this Facebook ad doesn’t make you viscerally uncomfortable, you may be missing some human emotion. This Father’s Day ad is a perfect example of what NOT to do when targeting customers. This ad assumes a lot about potential buyers, and sometimes, those assumptions are wrong. While a brand may not intend to cause pain, this is clearly an egregious case of targeting gone wrong. So much so, the customer screencapped the ad and shared it with their followers on Twitter, publicly shaming the company for their marketing tactics.

Solution: Think carefully through the many angles of a campaign before you launch it. Is there a possible group that may be offended or upset by a campaign? Try to think about it and segment your campaigns more effectively before you go forward.

Don’t offer irrelevant content

Similarly — though not as tragic — is sending personalized content to customers that is off target. Sometimes brands use less-than-ideal data collection and end up sending targeted messages to customers who don’t actually fit within a specific segment.

online retailer, online store

In this example, the customer doesn’t know why she got this message, but she does know that it’s not relevant. Maybe she bought a product as a gift for a friend who is having a baby, giving the retailer the wrong signals. Or perhaps there was a mistake in the data collection that led to this error. Either way, it ended up with a message that is completely off target and ineffective. Instead of converting a new customer, this email instead annoyed her.

Solution: Use a B2C CRM to make sure you’re collecting accurate information about all of your customers. With user resolution technology, you can unify customer data across channels and devices to get the most accurate view of customers. Don’t accept anything less with your customer engagement — your brand reputation is on the line.

Don’t target too broadly

Many of these mistakes all come down to making broad assumptions about your potential buyer. You may think you know your target online shoppers, but you may not know everything about them. Sometimes you’ll end up offering personalized messages to someone who doesn’t quite fit into the broad segment you’ve created for your marketing.

personalization strategy

This example is less offensive than the others, but still shows the many traps that targeted marketing can fall into. Offering personalized ads to anyone searching for information about common immigration legislation is far too broad to be effective. You’ll end up with a message that is not finding the intended audience at all, but is instead hitting uninterested parties and wasting your marketing dollars.

Solution: When doing targeted marketing, you have to create very specific segments in order to be effective. Offering a targeted message to a broad audience will always end with some mistaken identity.

There are, of course, innumerable examples of great personalization campaigns from many top brands. You should try to emulate the best marketing, while not falling victim to the many pitfalls of personalization. With higher quality data, better segmentation, and empathy for your buyer, you can avoid many of these mistakes and offer powerful personalization to your customers.

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