Danielle Narveson
May 4, 2016 · 6 min read

Technology is immersive, and all the more so when personalized. When applied thoughtfully, it is a powerful strategy for connection, integration and growth. And we all know it.

Marketing leaders across most industries are working to create a single view of the customer that allows them to engage in two-way, personalized conversations across all channels. It will be impossible for CMOs to build and manage a truly personalized customer experience across all channels in the future without one.

It’s also a substantial investment of time and money to get up and running. The transition to a single view often involves marketing automation tools, a CRM tool (and new content guidelines and production changes to more flexible formats), new tagging in the customer database, paid media and social automated flows, and a way to connect them all together.

It’s a lot.

And that can take months to establish even when moving at lightning speed.

At LIFT, we’ve been working with our clients to build roadmaps toward personalized experiences. Sometimes this involves personalized campaigns or a few small changes to prove ROI before client teams are ready for a complete shift toward personalization and marketing automation.

So what are the steps toward personalization we recommend before it’s all systems go?

  1. Use smart defaults
  2. Leverage data with a little something extra
  3. Create campaigns to custom groups and clusters
Every marketer’s goal: a single view of the customer
  1. Smart defaults

Personalization is a method of hospitality. It’s the familiar acknowledgement of someone’s presence, and their unique needs as an individual in a specific situation or context.

Unfortunately, the design of direct-to-customer dialogue is often overlooked as people think about data-driven personalization as a strictly technical concern. It is, but it can be solved with simple technical adjustments. We believe that no matter where the customer is — on your mobile app, website or email — you should be able to know a little something about who they are.

  • Remember their login information. It’s not hard. Allow the user’s browser to remember their login details. Amazon and Gmail have good experiences that remember who you are, but still require your password for financial or privacy-protected actions. This simple implementation creates a feeling that the company knows who you are at your first step of the experience.
  • Say “Hello.” It’s the first thing you say to someone in person, so why wouldn’t you offer a greeting when someone enters your digital experience? While an actual “Hello” isn’t necessary, acknowledging who someone is (and/or taking the next step to find out who they are) is important. I need to self identify when I login into Netflix, but Netflix is saying “Let me make sure I know who this is” in order to fully customize the personalized user experience.
  • Use first name in every email. This small detail is insanely easy to do with any email provider from MailChimp to Marketing Cloud. It’s not earth shattering. But there is a big difference between an email that says “Hi Danielle, here are a few recommendations you might like” and “Favorites this week” even when the content is the exact same.

2. Data with a little something extra

Smartphone consumers expect personal experiences. They want their needs and desires to be understood without a hassle. They expect mobile content to appear based on where they are and what they’re doing.

Even when you don’t know much about the customer (yet), what do you know? Well, you know what device they are using at that moment, which means you have an idea about how differently people use the app from how they use your web experience. Or you might know local data. Local is often synonymous with personal, especially when it comes to paid social and email.

  • Tailor experiences by device in use. If I watch a video using the Xfinity app or Sling TV on my iPhone, it’s probably to watch a game or show that is happening right now that I feel I can’t miss. Or to finish something I started but couldn’t finish. Mobile app engagements are typically shorter (5–15 minutes long) But if I’m watching on my Apple TV or Roku, there might be a cup of tea or bowl of popcorn next to me because I have a high likelihood of watching for a while longer. It is important we think of our program organization and UX with the viewer and their viewing device and location in mind. For example, rather than organizing content by channel, what if it were organized by time length?
  • Tailor messaging to locations/events/weather. If I’m addressing you by name and sending you something relevant to your location, such as a local team’s upcoming sports game or East Coast weather, it feels specific and relevant. If it’s pouring rain, I want an email from Yummly with soup recipes. Again, not personalization, but tailoring the experience to time and place (and customer mindset).

3. Custom groups and clusters

Choice is overwhelming. Personalization is essentially helping a customer decide from a curated list of recommendations specific to them. I, as a customer, still want to make my own choice, but I would rather do it from a subset of options than from a list of absolutely everything available to me. Spotify and Netflix have nailed this and provide recommendations based on my listening and viewing history. But that’s not the only way to narrow down the list.

  • Utilize a quiz or questionnaire to group customers. Z Gallerie launched a style personalities quiz last year and leveraged the customer responses to customize emails and landing page experiences for each user. It didn’t require a huge technology effort. By grouping customers into 5 groups, it was simple yet effective to create 5 versions of an email with imagery and content specific to each style personality profile.
  • Utilize targeting to drive customers to custom experiences. Custom landing pages are time consuming and often not cost effective, which is why I am insanely excited about the new Facebook canvas ads. For the first time I can build a truly tailored, immersive experience for one specific audience. I could target moms on Facebook with messaging, content and a product package specific to them. In the case of Sling TV, rather than just advertise Sling, I could talk directly to Moms about the Disney Channel and Kids’ Add-ons and the fact that it can be viewed on an app during long car trips or on a TV during Saturday morning cartoons. If I was any company that had both a women’s and men’s line, I could create one experience targeted at men with only men’s products. As engaging and dynamic as Facebook canvas ads are, I have yet to see one specific to a target audience in this way.

The desire for a personalized customer experience will only continue to grow. And as brands and marketers, it is up to us to deliver. Each of these examples serve as the first steps we can make to validate the potential of personalization internally, before committing to added resources, teams and tools to take it to the next level.

We find personalization, once started on your website or in campaigns, is hard to halt. Treating your customers as individuals is more than just human — it’s effective. We manage personalized email campaigns for our clients for exactly this reason. Take the first step and see what happens.

Our Point of View

How we see the marketing world around us

Danielle Narveson

Written by

Redhead, marketing technologist, planner, new mom, corporate tree hugger and global nomad. Director of Strategy www.wearelift.com

Our Point of View

How we see the marketing world around us

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade