The Potential and Pitfalls of Personalization

by Sherice Jacob

Last updated on December 28th, 2017

Here’s a tidbit from the “results-that-surprised-nobody” department: online shoppers want more customized, personalized offers, but they don’t want you to have too much information about them. So can you even do one without the other, and if so, how?

The answer lies in what type of personalization you do, and how you communicate that value to the customer.


In one survey, fully 78% of shoppers asked said they appreciate personalized offers and would be likely to buy again.  71% of users would be likely to buy again if they received targeted offers based on their location.  However, only 13% agreed to giving up personal information such as social media profiles.

Why such a disparity? And what can you do to bridge the gap?

Making it Relevant: Here and Now

According to an infographic from Monetate, there are over a dozen ways to personalize the offers that customers get, without even knowing much about that shopper.  Of course, the degree to which the offer is customized depends on what the customer is willing to share – but here’s a fantastic example:


Using demographic, geo and even weather targeting can yield big results in terms of conversions and sales

This kind of personalization seizes on the opportunity available at that very moment to make a customer stop what they’re doing and check out the offer.  And while many marketers have heard of, or used, behavioral targeting and even geo-targeting, I’m betting that you haven’t gone as far as technographic or even weather targeting:


Past and current website activities aren’t the only ways to target a user

And while targeting users based on their computer hardware or the weather in their area may seem like it’s only useful for gadget and clothing stores respectively, creative thinkers will find a way to utilize that information for their industry.  In fact, here are just a few of the many ways you can personalize offers to your audience:


  • Recent average order size
  • State/city/country
  • Site visit frequency
  • Tax-free state
  • Operating system
  • Current temperature
  • Type of weather outside
  • Screen resolution/width
  • Mobile device
  • Purchase frequency
  • ZIP code
  • Returning/new customer
  • Distance to warehouse
  • Recent/last product purchased
  • Time/shipping zone
  • Web browser
  • Products viewed

But What if They Won’t Give Up their Information?

Now that you’ve seen all the potential of personalization, it’s time to address the most common pitfalls—and that’s convincing customers to give up their personal information.  I like to use a fill-in-the-blank formula that lets me balance out (and easily communicate) what they’re giving in exchange for what they’re getting.  For example:

My customer is willing to give me __________ because they know they’ll get ____________.

So many companies don’t consider what the customer is getting out of the exchange – and they must be able to gain something of value to them (not you) in order to be willing to share that information.


  • My customer is willing to give me their email address because they know they’ll get personalized recommendations on new items the moment they’re available.
  • My customer is willing to give me their social media profile because they can participate in fun contests and give their likes/dislikes and opinions on new products and styles.

Oftentimes, companies shout “Follow us on Facebook” or “Join us on Pinterest” without any real incentive or motivation to do so. By letting them know that they can like you on Facebook and take a survey to win a $100 gift card, or follow you on Twitter to get a glimpse of upcoming releases before they hit store (or digital) shelves, you’ll be able to create a win-win exchange that’s beneficial for everyone.

The important thing to remember is that it must be something that your customer feels is valuable and worth their time—not what you think they want.

Personalization is Not a One-Time Thing

The bottom line is that personalizing the customer’s experience is not a one-off thing, nor is it a marketing gimmick or trend. It may be a single transaction in the movement of millions of dollars online—but it’s also a small step toward building a relationship based on loyalty and reciprocity.

Do you use personalization in your own marketing?  Or do you find it too intrusive when companies use your data to create targeted offers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Sherice Jacob

Sherice Jacob helps website owners improve conversion rates with custom design, copywriting and website reviews.  Get your free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up by visiting


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