One-to-one Marketing, Personalization, and People-Based Marketing Defined

April 15, 2016  |   Rebecca Stone

Today’s consumers expect and demand tailored interactions that make it easier for them to complete transactions and make them feel valued as a customer.

These interactions, or personalization efforts as they are commonly known in the marketing world, are believed to have a major impact on the overall success of marketing programs.

They can take many forms and the related concepts can often intersect.

Here’s how we think about these consumer differences:

#1 – Personalization

The broadest of the three concepts, personalization is the practice of customizing a consumer’s interactions with a brand in order to make them more relevant to the consumer’s needs or interests.  

You can implement a personalization strategy in a variety of different ways, in fact you may already be doing personalization in a single channel today–from dynamic creative in digital advertising campaigns to emails and web pages.

Typically, these interactions are customized to broad audience segments, such as demographics or geography, that can be known (in the case of email or logged in web traffic) or anonymized (in the case of digital advertising).

Some companies are even going a step further by anonymizing their offline data (think in-store purchases or call center data) to personalize the online interaction.

Here’s a B2B example from one of our integrated partners:

DemandBase customizes the image and content on the splash page of their website to welcome visitors.


Generic welcome page

Demandbase image

Page customized to an account

This example, from a retailer where I’m a member of the loyalty program, demonstrates personalization based on my status as a Silver Rewards Member.

image for blog

Personalization can come in many different forms.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but by starting small and testing a few segments (rather than worrying about getting all the data across all your touchpoints fully accurate), you can set yourself on a path towards more sophisticated planning.

#2 – People-Based Marketing

The next stage in the personalization journey is people-based marketing, the practice of connecting the many anonymous devices, browsers, and addresses to a unique consumer.

People-based marketing allows you to think cross-channel and requires advanced, accurate recognition technology to know when anonymized offline and online data from different channels relates to the same consumer.

With this insight, you can personalize campaigns with greater accuracy.

 #3 – One-to-one Marketing

One-to-one marketing is the advanced personalization that can happen with a people-based approach to data.

At it’s simplest, you can think of one-to-one marketing as the ability to take a known customer’s stated preferences and turn them into reality.

The waiter who knows your favorite seat at the restaurant, seats you immediately, and delivers your favorite drink without asking, is my personal favorite form of one-to-one marketing.

It’s simple customer satisfaction: recognizing that you’ve been here before, you’re a loyal customer, and acknowledging that we remember you.

Here’s a digital example, from Amazon, where they’ve customized the homepage of their website, upon login:

image for blog2

one-to-one marketing gets more complicated when it starts to span multiple channels and devices.

Let’s expand on the restaurant example.

Imagine: instead of one restaurant and one waiter in your hometown, there is an expectation that every cashier at every McDonalds across the world remember your name and your favorite McMeal. Seems unlikely right?

In the digital world, if each team isn’t drawing from the same pool of data, it’s just as difficult because everyone is drawing from puddles of data that represent mere fragments of your total customer view.

The on-site analytics give you one view, the email database gives you another. The point-of-sale system has one batch of data, your CRM has another.

Making Personalization a Reality

If the world you’re marketing to is a splintered nightmare and the data you’re relying on is a fragmented mess, how do you avoid building a personalization strategy that is anything but personalized?

The key is to connect online and offline data at the data layer.

That way, no matter how many applications your teams use, and no matter how many channels your customers consume, there’s always a cohesive view of your marketing activities.

The only way to effectively measure a fragmented view of the market is to connect everything you know about that market.

We call this the connectivity layer, and we believe it’s an essential addition to your marketing stack.

What’s Next?

For more on one-to-one marketing, take a look at our Definitive Guide.