Here’s an email I recently received in my inbox:

“Hi Karen, how are you? We have these beautiful canary-yellow sandals on sale that we think you’ll love. Click below for next-day delivery!”

Thanks, well-known ecommerce website, but I don’t wear heels and I hate the color yellow. Just because I’m a woman who once bought something from your website (a cellphone case, in fact) doesn’t mean I’m automatically interested in the latest peep-toe stilettos.

This true story is one of many examples of personalized marketing failure, or how to really annoy your customers by suggesting products based on vague demographical data such as gender or age.

Marketers, you can do better!

Personalized marketing isn’t just about effectively targeting your potential customers — it directly impacts your bottom line. According to a study by Accenture, personalization failure cost B2C businesses $756 billion in the US alone.

Done well, personalization is an incredibly valuable tool to enable B2C marketers to boost customer loyalty, increase average order value, and customer lifetime value. Here’s how your customer data can better power truly personalized marketing efforts.

Gather relevant customer data

You’re probably gathering all kinds of data on your customers at the moment, but how much of that can you actually use? With the right data collection, you can offer personalization that will excite rather than irritate your prospective customers. As we’ve already mentioned, collecting data such as gender, age, and location can give you a partial picture of your customers, but it’s not enough to offer the kind of personalized content consumers today expect.

In addition to demographics, you should be gathering data on:

  • The products buyers have browsed on your site
  • Their overall purchase history
  • Any past abandoned carts
  • …and more.

Customers may be using any number of devices, browsers, and email addresses to access your website. With a B2B CRM, you can bring all that information together to find out what your customers’ interests are, which mobile devices they like to shop on, which methods of communication they prefer, and what products they have already viewed on your site.

If you don’t have all the information you need to be able to target your customers in such a granular way, you can even ask them (nicely) to provide it for you — ideally with some kind of incentive. Spanish airline Iberia sent its customers emails asking where their ideal destination for a vacation would be, and who they would take with them. When they filled out a form on a microsite, the friend received a personalized email, which they had to click on to view. Iberia then displayed personalized ads as the friend was browsing the web. Don’t be afraid to get creative to gather the customer data you need to offer a personalized experience.

Get more specific with your marketing

Now that you have your customer data, analyze it from a few different angles. Are there any patterns there that you can build personalized messages on? For example, do your customers often buy sun lotion in March? If so, you could email a replenishment campaign in February asking them if they need to stock up, suggesting some new products to try based on past purchases, or offering them a discount code. Or maybe a new customer just bought a pair of skis. Why not send them an email asking if they need ski goggles as well, and send them a discount code to get money off their next purchase. This is the kind of thoughtful personalization that consumers will appreciate. It makes them feel like they are cared for as a loyal customer, and not just on the receiving end of some basic marketing algorithm.

One example of a brand that really gets personalization is silicone wedding ring retailer QALO. This brand goes the extra mile to provide personalized marketing campaigns, recognizing that consumers within its target audience want to be sold to in different ways. Take their marketing images as an example. One shows two runners and the other a weightlifter. Both are the target audience and the product QALO is selling is ultimately the same, but it’s using different tactics to tap into the likes and interests of two very different groups of people — truly personalizing their experience.

QALOPersonalizedRunners
QALOPersonalizedWeightlifter

Automate next actions

When you have brought all this data together to get a single view of your customers, you can start to automate actions based on their past behavior and buying habits. For example, think about what your customers do seasonally and create an automated lifecycle campaign that is triggered in the Fall. You can create triggered campaigns with relevant content for almost any individual customer behavior — from opening an email to abandoning a cart or even just browsing your website. To be able to save time through effective automation, you first need to segment your customers according to the criteria above and think creatively about new ways to personalize your message to each segment.

One example of the successful use of email marketing automation and customer segmentation is internet retailer BustedTees, which initially personalized its email newsletters according to the time zone each customer is in. This did so well, the brand then moved on to have a personalized send time for each subscriber based on individual open times in the past. You have to better understand your customer in order to offer this type of personalization, but it is possible.

Personalize across channels to increase revenue

True personalization should not stop at just one channel either. Personalization isn’t just for email campaigns, but should instead play an integral role in your entire omnichannel marketing strategy. Once you’re collecting the right information, you’ve unified this data to build a complete picture of your customers, and you’ve automated next best actions based on pre-defined behaviors, the next step is to extend the channels you push this message out into. Supplement a cart abandonment email with product-specific retargeting ads across Facebook, Instagram, or your customers’ channel of choice (which you’ll already have a good idea of due to the data you’re collecting).

The key takeaway from this is personalized marketing shouldn’t seem mechanical, but should instead adapt your marketing to your buyers. Your goal as a B2C marketer is to make your customers’ lives easier by providing the right offer at the right time, making it feels more like one-to-one marketing than a huge email blast. Your customers like to feel like people, not numbers on your list. 

Just because I’m in a certain demographic doesn’t mean I automatically love shoes — and with the right data, a marketer could send me the perfect offer that resonates with me personally and convinces me to buy.

Karen McCandless

Karen McCandless is a content strategist, digital analyst, and researcher, specializing in business communications, and technology. Her work has appeared on The Next Web, Softonic, Business2Community, GetApp.com, Business.com, and Microsoft Europe.