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The Difference Between Customization and Personalization in Digital Marketing

Customization and personalization in digital marketing may sound synonymous, but they each have separate objectives. Think of customization as led by the user. A company offers the user the opportunity to set up their preferences to customize their experience – what they want to see and not see on the website or app, how they prefer the company to contact them, etc. 

On the other hand, personalization is led by the marketer. Marketers use comprehensive customer data gathered from various marketing and sales systems to provide highly-relevant messaging at the ideal time on the channels that customer prefers. Gartner says consumers respond more positively to personalized messaging that helps them through their customer journey. 

Personalization Is About Data

Consumers still want customization options, but marketers who only focus on customization are missing the mark. Customization does not offer consumers a time- and cost-efficient, one-on-one experience with the brand, whether it provides a service or a product.

Marketers must use their individual customer’s data intelligently to become more successful in creating such experiences through personalization in digital marketing. 

A study by McKinsey revealed that while only 15 percent of CMOs believed their company was on the right track with personalization, personalization leaders reported ways to increase revenue by 5 to 15 percent and marketing-spend efficiency by 10 to 30 percent. The best tactics? Deploying product recommendations and triggering communications within singular channels.

Personalization, as a marketing approach focused on individuals and not groups, turns the traditional “awareness > interest > desire > action” model into a seamless, more intimate dialog between the brand and the audience. It requires the marketer to know what kind of help its customers need and then deliver that help in the best way(s) possible. 

Ad-Week states, “Simply put, broad segmentation by marketers no longer works. While segmentation is still helpful for marketers as a summary, the reality for most brands today is moving to micro-segmentation or personalization to engage customers effectively. 

“While most companies have already moved to personalize products through data, insights, and machine learning, the reality is that many brands struggle to scale personalization effectively. For a company with millions or hundreds of thousands of customers, it can be a daunting challenge to get the right people, processes, and technology in place to leap effectively”.

Companies of all sizes go through the digital marketing personalization challenge. When they start embracing this approach, one of the usual first steps is to acquire more martech. But the key isn’t always more applications. Often it is to connect what you already have. Integrated systems consolidate and cleanse customer data so it can be used to inform various forms of communications, such as ads, emails, blog posts, social media pieces, and SMS. 

Related: Creating a Synchronized Customer Experience

The Value of Data and Benefits of Personalization

A McKinsey report found that personalization at scale often delivers a 2 percent or more lift in total sales, reduces marketing and sales costs by up to 20 percent, yields 20 percent higher customer-satisfaction rates, and up to 15 percent bump in sales conversion rates. These benefits speak for themselves, but how do you get the data required to provide customers and prospects with a personalized experience?

Potential and current customers leave valuable data behind when they surf the web and social media outlets. In exchange, they expect a more individualized approach to their needs that is not invasive of their privacy.

Powerful tools can obtain names, email addresses, age, location, and other demographic variables. They can also measure attention span, topics of interest, purchase history, and connections to specific people or organizations.

The primary issue is that many companies either don’t have access to the full breadth of customer data within the organization, or the sales and marketing systems that house the data are disconnected. Combining the data with the proper tools can deliver effective personalization in digital marketing strategies. Let’s look at an example.

Imagine you are a customer who decides, post-pandemic, to avoid visiting your local supermarket to buy groceries. After all, it requires a long commute to get to the grocery store, find a parking spot, buy all the items you needed for a week, and go back home. 

The store has an app and an eCommerce website for customers to order online, giving you the perfect option to quickly purchase your groceries without a typical delivery app as the middleman. 

With regular use, you expect this platform could save you money and additional time by:

  1. Keeping track of previous purchases so you don’t have to browse again through the items you regularly buy.
  2. Sending relevant information about promotions and discounts applicable to your usual shopping habits via the app or website and the email newsletter you subscribed to when you signed up.
  3. Generating reminders of products you may have forgotten, even using SMS to help you quickly add items to your cart, even after purchase but before pickup.
  4. Recommending new products that might align well with your preferences.
  5. Keeping you updated on the delivery status.
  6. Storing your payment methods safely.

Think of all of the data you leave behind to enable this to happen. 

As the last part of this exercise, you can now put the grocery store’s marketer hat on and ask yourself how much brand awareness, sales, and other KPIs could increase if you leverage personalization in digital marketing. Using the data, you can make the customer feel you know them and care about their time, money, and overall brand experience.

Even if your current needs mean replicating this scenario exponentially, a simple, small-scale example like this helps you quickly consider personalization as a fundamental approach to your digital marketing strategy. 

As we mentioned in a previous post, top-performing marketers regularly put themselves in their customer’s shoes to ensure their customers’ experiences are quick, easy, and friction-free. 

Related: Top 10 Digital Marketing To-Do’s for 2021 — Part One

Aiming at Hyper-personalization

As we briefly implied above, regardless of the channels you use in your campaigns, personal, meaningful messages with compelling calls to action are critical for the strategy to be successful. If you are part of a large organization, the “secret sauce” connects your content, customer data attributes, and channels to deliver personalization at scale. You can achieve hyper-personalization levels with the right tactics.

ABTasty states, “Hyper-personalization, also known as one-to-one marketing, is a form of traditional personalization. Utilizing real-time data and artificial intelligence (AI), hyper-personalization displays to your customers specially curated content, products, and services with a high level of granularity, at scale, and often in an automated fashion. Having complete knowledge of company products and consumers, plus the appropriate data, technology, and resources for implementation are essential for formulating a specially-made plan.”

Managing personalized marketing across multiple channels can be a complex and time-consuming endeavor. A good martech stack should allow you to deliver campaigns across various channels. But as this stack (and your company) grows, the only way to make this manageable is to automate as many campaigns, tasks, and processes as you can while you find ways to fill in the gaps between tools. 

The key to personalization is data, yet if your martech systems are disconnected, you can’t get a complete picture of your customer. To leverage your current martech stack and obtain the best marketing performance ever, you need to connect the dots and ensure your data is complete, clean, and usable.  Learn how Sureshot can help you get the most out of your martech stack and the data within it so you can nail personalization in digital marketing. Book a demo to learn more.