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What is marketing personalization—and why does it matter?

If you spend any time on the internet at all, you’ve experienced personalization.

Some of it is incredible. Like when Netflix knows exactly the types of films you like to watch and suggests things you never would have sought out yourself. Or when Spotify creates discovery playlists that surprise and delight you. Or when your favorite brand already knows who you are when you get to their website and serves up ads that perfectly meet your needs.

Of course, as we’ve all experienced, some personalization misses the mark completely. Like when companies try to get you to sign up for a service you’re already a member of. Or when they advertise to you for an event in a city you have no plans to visit. Or, worse, when they misinterpret who you are and chase you around the web with ads that irrelevant or irritating.

It’s pretty easy to see, based on anyone’s experience, that personalization is beneficial. It helps customers connect with your brand. It helps you reach them with the right messages at the right time—and not annoy them with the wrong messages at the wrong time. And it drives real business results—like those of Lytics clients’ The Economist and this leading pet food company.

But, like any good marketing, personalization isn’t always easy.

In fact, for many, it’s not going well…

The challenge of personalization

In a 2018 survey, the majority of marketers gave themselves less-than-stellar marks for personalization. Only 6% gave their personalization efforts an A, as opposed to the 46% who gave themselves a C—a fact that may come as no surprise to married people who find themselves bombarded by dating app ads or child-free 30-somethings whose Facebook feeds are a parade of diaper and high chair ads.

This is a big problem.

Because true personalization—like that demonstrated by Netflix and Spotify—is proven to drive real business results. It encourages impulse buys. It reduces returns. And it supports customer loyalty.

And poorly done personalization—targeting the wrong people with the wrong messages at the wrong times—can drive them away from your brand entirely.

Sometimes it’s because they assume your company is wrong for them. If I’m a dog owner who watches lots of animal videos and your pet food company only targets me for cat food ads, I might assume cat food is all you do. It may never occur to me to check and see if you also have something for my German Shepherd.

And sometimes it’s just because customers are irritated and feel disconnected from you. A recent survey found that 42% of consumers found non-personalized content annoying. And 66% of that group said it would drive them away from the brand.

In other words, companies are losing business they don’t have to lose. The fix is true personalization.

So, how can marketers truly personalize?

The answers start with mindset, clean customer data, and the right technology. Because with millions of users, the truth is that tech giants like Amazon, Spotify, and Netflix aren’t relying on their marketing and tech teams to do the heavy lifting of personalization. They’re not creating hundreds of linear customer journeys and shoehorning everyone into them.

They’re using technology—like the artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science built into a Customer Data Platform like Lytics—to get to know individual user preferences and automatically serve up song recommendations, purchase recommendations, and graphics most likely to appeal to those individuals.

Like these industry leaders, the answers for up-and-coming companies for whom personalization is a priority is in planning for said personalization and choosing a technology partner like Lytics that can take the burden off your team.

Start your journey to personalization

Check out our free personalization white paper to learn more about what industry leaders are doing, how personalization works, how you can prepare your teams, why CDPs are important, and how to choose the right one.

Or, if you’re already evaluating CDPs, we’d love to give you a demo and show you how Lytics supports true 1:1 personalization.