Is 1:1 Marketing Personalization a Realistic Possibility?

by Peter Boyle

Last updated on July 25th, 2017


Thanks for ordering your free copy of the [LEADMAGNET] eBook, we really hope the tips provided help [ORGANIZATION] grow its customer base and take its revenue to the next level.

Before you go [FIRSTNAME], I’d love to know what specific problems both you and [ORGANIZATION] are facing so I can better tailor future materials to your needs.

You’ve seen the likes of the above before. It’s one of the many cookie cutter email openings you’re probably sick of receiving.

Sure, it adheres to the basic rules of personalization. It mentions both the user’s name, organization and even goes a step further and offers something which could help place this user into a particular segment.

But let’s be honest, it’s hardly a 1:1 experience. You know as soon as you open the email it’s a generic automated response that everyone who clicks that big CTA button receives.

The above probably will work to help increase your open and engagement rate. But we’ve moved past these basic steps. There’s so much more you can do with your campaigns now to ensure that the content provided to your customers through email, social media and even on-site is personalized to their needs, desires and expectations.

What’s the Value of 1:1 Marketing?

Do you like not being valued?

Of course you don’t. Whether in your professional life, friendship circle or familial relationships you want to feel valued. You want to feel like people appreciate you not just for what you offer, but for who you are.

It’s no different when it comes to consumer relationships. People want to feel valued, and they’ll pay above the odds for a little extra service.

In a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology researchers tested the effect of a simple offer on customers in a restaurant. The waiters at the establishment were split into three groups.

  • Group 1 included a few mints with the check yet didn’t mention them.
  • Group 2, when bringing the check, asked if anyone at the table wanted a mint.
  • Group 3 included a few mints with the check, however, after a few minutes the waiters came back with another set of mints and asked the diners if they wanted any.

Each group saw an increase in the value of their tip. Group 1 saw a 3% increase, group 2  a 14% increase but group 3, the group who appeared to be going the most out of their way to provide a better service for the customer saw a 21% increase.

Consumers don’t just love personalization because it provides them with a better service, but because it streamlines the experience for them. You’re handing them what they need on a silver platter.

In the above scenario, diners got something they didn’t expect and didn’t have to worry about bad breath. They were presented with numerous opportunities to remove a worry that might be lingering at the back of their mind. All without having to do anything themselves. And the results show that people will pay more for simple, small kindnesses from you.

Is full 1:1 Online Personalization a Realistic Possibility?

The short answer is yes.

But it comes with an important caveat.

You won’t be able to create a fully personalized experience for everyone in the world. At least not yet.

Have you ever seen Minority Report? There’s that bit where Tom Cruise is walking down a corridor and, thanks to retinal scanners, is bombarded with unsolicited advertisements that open with his (or his cover’s) name.

This was (and still is) talked about as the future of marketing. Unsolicited, disruptive advertisements that have a great level of information about the individual being targeted.

Do I think we’ll ever have this level of personalization? No. Or rather I hope we don’t.

As much as I love the benefits of personalization, both as a marketer and consumer, I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be with that level of detail pertaining to my private life being so easily scraped and used by corporations I’ve not previously purchased from!

Thankfully Minority Report’s unsolicited and disruptive approach isn’t yet a realistic possibility.

However, when it comes to content users that have opted in to hear from you, then yes, I really do think that a 1:1 personalized experience is a possibility.

Not sometime in the future either. I’d say that with the right tools and some smart tactics you could create a pretty excellent 1:1 customer experience this month.

The question is, what kind of tactics can you employ to better personalize your marketing campaigns?

Unify Customer Data

Personalization is nothing new in marketing. You know that segmenting your user base by action and basic demographic data is key to pushing out relevant content.

Knowing that Dave Smith is a 21-30 year-old male living in Alaska means you’re not going to try and sell him on the latest summer fashions for teenage girls. But that’s hardly a 1:1 experience.

It’s great for pushing relevant content to the right people, but it’s the first step on a longer personalization journey.

For a 1:1 experience you need to know more about each of your users. Knowing their demographic data like gender, age and location isn’t enough.

You need to collect data about their wider engagement habits like the channels they prefer and engage with most often, the devices they favor, their on-site browsing habits and the products they’re most interested in.

1:1 personalisation, unify customer data


This data all needs to be collated in one area. It’s no use having the engagement stats for emails in your ESP, browse data on GA and your purchase history on Shopify.

If your data is spread across unconnected silos throughout the business, then it’s incredibly difficult to derive any actionable insights.

What Kind of Data Should You be Tracking?

The short answer? Everything you can.

Knowing the general personae based details of age, gender and location aren’t enough. Even adding transactional data such as links clicked and campaigns engaged with isn’t enough.

You’ve got to build the most complete picture of your consumers as possible. That means knowing everything you’ve read about in the dozens of articles that cover segmentation, personalization, and useful metrics, and combining it with omnichannel tracking.

Tracking these things gives you a wealth of information. You’ll know everything from which is your highest converting channel, what ads convert at the highest rate and how users move between channels throughout their purchase journey.

All this helps understand how John Smith reacts with your brand.

You’ll know that he engages well with sneaker offers through Facebook mobile ads but waits to purchase until he’s back at home on his desktop. Information you can use to create a personalized, non-disruptive journey that makes it incredibly easy for John to purchase from you.

How Can You Use All that Data?

There’s a cheap cop out answer I could give and say the way you use the data really depends on you, your business and your customers.

No two businesses are the same. You might find John Smith is a huge mobile converter. That he prefers app notifications that drive him toward product pages to purchase a product. Another business might see the same consumer prefer email and desktop campaigns.

The way you interact with your audience will be specific to your relationship with them. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a general set of guidelines on the various ways you can utilize a customer’s personal preferences.

On-Site Personalization

Dynamic, Triggered Pop Ups

I’m not talking the general “here’s an eBook” or “download the sneaker guide now!” pop-ups that litter modern eCommerce stores. I’m talking about specific, triggered overlays.

The kind that show when a user displays intent to exit the site without purchasing and include dynamic offers based on their browsing history, such as:

  • A specific sneaker money off voucher for those who have browsed various sneaker product pages
  • A prompt to send the user’s basket to their email address “saving” their selection if they exhibit behavior linked to abandoning
  • Or a notification of a competition related to their recent browse history

Each of the above is personalized to the individual user. It’s context based and has a strong link to their needs as they’re based on their on-site actions.

These behavior-based, triggered pop-ups are proven to bring some great results as they’re less intrusive than bombarding a user with offers as soon as they enter a site and offer benefits specific to their needs.

Yieldify, a London-based company that offers exit intent tech helped Dominos achieve a 99:1 ROI through the use of similar dynamic, exit intent overlays. The overlay content changed depending on the value of the basket and whether it was a returning or new customer.

1:1 personalisation in dynamic overlays

Retargeting Banners

You’ve found those sites who have taken the pop-up advice a little too literally right? The ones where you load the page and are hit with 3 or 4 different popups.

They’re a pain in the arse and do nothing to make you want to stay on-site. If you’re seeing your users express their weariness with popups by immediately closing your triggered popups, you may want to experiment with on-site banners.

Generally speaking, banner ads offer very low value to the user. They include a generic, site wide offer that’s displayed to everyone who lands on your site. The wider your product range, the more difficult it is to come up with a relevant banner ad.

Instead of taking the tired old approach of simply displaying a top of page banner, couple it with a little retargeting magic.

Retargeting allows you to show banners and advertisements to people who have previously visited your site or purchased from your company. They’re most often used externally with the aim to increase brand influence and bring consumers back to complete their purchase.

However, there’s nothing to stop you from adapting this external approach to instead focus on on-site elements like top-of-page banners. Add a little dynamic content and you could:

  • List offers specific to a user’s browse history
  • Push content that will keep a user from bouncing
  • Elicit a second purchase from a returning customer by making a complementary cross-sell product recommendation

It’s an incredibly effective method which helped Watchfinder Clocks achieve a 1300% ROI.

Dynamic, advertisements, banner, 1:1, personalisation


Thanks to email’s explicit data collection you’re given a few more options when creating a 1:1 experience. However, you shouldn’t just rely on the information subscribers provide. You’ve got to couple it with implicit browse habits and engagement stats to provide the most personalized experience.

Dynamic Content

All 1:1 personalization efforts rely on dynamic content. However, I’m referring here specifically to dynamic content blocks that change depending on a user’s interest, actions, and engagement.

For example, sending a 25-year-old male emails that focus on young male fashion items is an example of basic segmentation.

Take it a step further and include a dynamic content block in that same email. One which highlights an ongoing sale for various brands.

  • For John Smith it shows an ongoing 20% off Levi’s jeans because he’s bought four pairs over the last two years.
  • For Dave Jones it displays a new pair of boat shoes because he spent three days last week looking through your boat shoe inventory.
  • And William Brown sees a generic money off voucher as he’s signed up, but not yet purchased.

In each case the recipient will receive the same generic email information. However, the dynamic content that opens the email will change based on the user’s individual actions and interests.

Here’s an example of how Brooks, a running brand, personalized their email content based on location and weather differences.

dynamic content blocks, 1:1, email personalisation

Image Source

You don’t need to write new emails for each and every user. With dynamic content blocks you can repurpose 80% of the information and focus on making that final 20% incredibly tailored to an individual’s specific needs.

Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are different from dynamic content in the way they’re generated. Justin Fyles offers an incredible description of the difference;

“A marketing email with dynamic content is typically a static HTML email with simple tags for recipient-specific information that get merged with customer lists. These emails are then sent in bulk by an Email Service Provider (ESP). A triggered email, on the other hand, is HTML generated by combining a custom template with user data around a specific event, and then sent directly through an ESP”.

This Experian study highlights just how incredibly effective transactional emails can be.

Transactional emails, 1:1 email personalisation

The secret to establishing a successful triggered email campaign is to figure out what actions will trigger an automatic send and how to optimize the triggered email or series to offer the most relevant value to the recipient.

The topic of transactional emails is one that deserves an article all its own. Fortunately, the Crazy Egg archive once again comes to the rescue.

Automated emails that help drive revenue.

How to create the perfect transactional emails

Start Simple

1:1 personalization is an incredibly complex task. It requires a long-term, involved effort from everyone in your wider marketing team.

A lot of marketing managers will look at the sheer volume of information and tactics required before writing it off as a job too big to tackle. But it’s not.

It’s the same as any other marketing endeavor, the secret is to start simple and slowly increase the complexity and depth of your campaign. In the same vein as CRO it’s an iterative process where your first few efforts likely will be pretty shoddy. But the long-term gains truly are worth the effort.

The tips in this article are enough to get you started, but for a successful campaign you’re going to have to optimize based on your own audiences actions. Shun the third party studies and generic advice published by those looking for industry kudos and focus on how you can provide the highest level of value to your customers.



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Peter Boyle

Pete Boyle is a conversion focused copywriter and marketing consultant. He helps brands increase their revenue through compelling copy and smart email campaigns. Click here to connect with Pete or download one of his free marketing guides.


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  1. Ameer Ahmad says:
    October 1, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    Good points! Personalized marketing offers a fantastic way to reach customers. Rather than sending everyone a generalized message, personalized messages are directly applicable to the customer receiving them. Companies should definitely investigate how personalized marketing can help them be more successful in their marketing campaigns.

    • Peter Boyle says:
      October 4, 2016 at 4:10 am

      Thanks for the comment Ameer. You’re completely right, companies really do need to examine how they can offer a more personalised experience to their customers.
      After all, giving people what they want is the basis of good business!

  2. Jennifer says:
    September 28, 2016 at 4:46 am

    Personalization also goes beyond the content marketers produce. As the Founder and CEO of Curata Pawan Deshpande suggests, personalizing curated content is often easier and can be just as valuable for prospects and customers.

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