4 Tips for Achieving Competitively Differentiating Personalization


Share on LinkedIn

Per research findings, traditional “personalization” does not satisfy the needs of today’s consumers.

B2B and B2C customers are defining personalization as providing very targeted content based on their individual preferences. Following are 4 tips for achieving competitively differentiating personalization.

Tip #1 – Understand what personalization means to your customers.

Personalization is not what you want to say/sell. It’s about what your customers want to receive. For today’s empowered consumers, personalization is a basic expectation. A key point, per Voice of Customer (VoC) research conducted by our firm indicates that effective personalization is viewed by customers as a service and benefit, not just a sales tool. However, per this quote from the VoC research, customers want real personalization;

“I expect more than just ‘we’ve looked at everything you’ve bought over the last X months and this is what we think you’ll like’. With today’s technology, I expect much more than that!”

Companies such as MassMutual and Microsoft who have committed to the discipline of providing preference-based personalization have achieved double digit increases in response and revenue.

The key action for providing truly meaningful personalization is to understand what is most important to your customers and how they can tell you their preferences via a convenient and easily navigated preference center or opt-in/opt-out form. Enabling customers to provide information to control communications they receive will get you a uniquely powerful database populated with interested and engaged customers.

Tip #2 – Preference information is the true driver of personalization.

Another finding from VoC research conducted by our company, ERDM, indicates that BtoB and BtoC customers are willing to provide deep preference information if they see the value and are assured of improved levels of personalization. This research finding has emerged so consistently, that we refer to it as the Reciprocity of Value Equation. This fundamentally reframes data privacy concerns as a beneficial exchange of information that improves the customer experience. The following research quote sums up the feelings of B2B and B2C buyers;

“I am now less willing to sort through spray and pray “marketing stuff” to uncover the few relevant messages. I expect marketers to find me and provide relevant offers based on my individual needs and preferences.”

The key action for establishing a personalization-driven customer engagement program is to provide obvious value in exchange for preference-based information. Customers have said that they will update and refresh their information as long as they keep receiving value from marketers. Therefore, the significant takeaway is that:

  • BtoB and BtoC customers will supply deep levels of information if they trust the brand and see value.
  • Consumers will actively opt-in to sharing detailed personal preference information in exchange for the marketer’s promise to deliver relevant information and offers. This also applies to not sending communications that are not relevant per their stated preferences.
  • Marketers need to understand how their customers define the Reciprocity of Value Equation with their specific company.

Tip #3 – Communication has to be meaningful and relevant to the individual – to be seen as truly personalized.

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to personalization. Segmentation and personalized content drive true personalization.

The key action is to deliver on the personalization experience customers tell you they want by implementing the following;

  • Segmentation by customer lifecycle stage with your company to determine appropriate communications.
  • Determine consumer attitudes/expectations of products and product categories.
  • Develop offers for each consumer and customer “group” segment by using a mix of sources; transactional data, collaborative filtering, opt-in in preferences, social monitoring, VoC, etc.
  • Deliver these personalized offers/communication via the consumer’s preferred channel and frequency.

Tip #4 – The customer “payoff” from personalization must be a truly personalized experience.

Per recent VoC research, the highest levels of personalization now go beyond personalized communications and include the curation of personalized products and experiences.

Songza, recently acquired by Google, disrupted the music streaming world by creating a Concierge to provide increasingly personalized music playlists. The music curation experience is the result of 7 data variables; day of the week, time of day, location, device type, weather, observed preferences of others and observed personal preferences.

Another example of personalization through product curation is Stitch Fix, an online personal styling service that ships customers a hand-picked selection of clothing and accessories based on their individual style, size, lifestyle and budget. The company asks customers to opt-in and fill out a 15 page Style Profile with over 66 characteristics which are then used to help personalize product selections. In an important twist, a real live personal stylist handpicks a “Fix” of five clothing items and accessories unique to that customer who then buys what they want or returns the rest. Company growth has skyrocketed because they provide customers with a personalized, individual “fix” and experience.

Key takeaways:

  • Differentiate your company by providing truly personalized experiences, communications and offers.
  • Involve your customers in defining their own experience with you. If you show them by your actions that you are “listening to their voice” and “acting” on their input, they will recognize that their participation in providing their preference information is indeed beneficial.
  • Customers and prospects view personalization as the next step in a company’s commitment to service excellence
  • Personalization is viewed as a service and benefit, not just a sales tool.
  • Personalized communication specific to the customers’ interests and buying history are value-added triggers that are welcomed by customers.
Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


  1. Customers feedback and survey are a valuable tool for companies seeking to offer their visitors a personalized browsing experience. However, in todays fast paced world it is crucial for ecommerce sites to be able to offer their customers a real-time personalized shopping experience which is based on the customer’s current and past behavior on the site. Implementing personalization does not have to be a daunting experience, with today SAAS based technologies, eCommerce sites can implement onsite personalization technologies in a matter of days without the need for IT support.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here