Personalized marketing is everywhere. Digital channels use cookies, search terms, click through rates and so on in order to enable marketers to track, measure, and take advantage of everything from consumer tastes and trends to marketing placement based on where the eye is naturally drawn to in order of importance on a screen. Direct mail and print shops know what colors, wording, font type, and offers will increase open and response rates among various audience segments. All of this personalization is working – and it doesn’t have to involve a handwritten note (unless you’re Kansas City Power and Light, who teamed up with Hallmark Business Connections to create a powerful customer care driven campaign).

Instead, personalized marketing stems from the use of high quality, large quantity data. With so much data available, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. But depending on who you’re trying to reach and when, data provides the necessary tools to personalize your marketing – no small feat, as Epsilon recently released a report that indicates 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. Right about now, however, you may be wondering where to start. 

What qualifies as personalization and why does it matter?

The first step in modifying your marketing to include personalization is to understand what kinds of personalization are effective and what kinds should be avoided – for example, your consumers may appreciate a birthday coupon, but they won’t be happy if you’re sending offers that indicate a life event that they consider private (as Target, unfortunately, learned the hard way). Here’s a quick look at what consumers are okay with and what is garnering the most success:

Personalization goes far beyond just getting your customers’ names right on their offers… it encompasses congratulations on a life event that is considered public, a happy birthday coupon, anniversary discounts (i.e. “thanks for one year of being a valued customer,” etc.), offers tailored to consumer tastes, dedicated order fulfillers (shopping assistants on retail sites, curb side pick up), recommendations (like Amazon’s saved previous orders), and ease of experience. 

Location based personalization is extremely effective. Consumers are 30% more likely to respond to offers or coupons based on consumers’ physical locations. Other factors that influence consumers to action vary greatly by industry:

retail_financial preferences

 Key Takeaways:

  • Mail and email work best for offers
  • Offers tailored based on past preferences perform the best
  • Consumers prefer financial institutions to help them stay on top of their bills by providing recurring transactions and reminders
auto personal

 Key Takeaways:

  • Mail and email are the best channels for offers
  • Offers tailored based on past preferences perform the best
  • Ease of use rank high among consumer’s personalization preferences

How can you implement better personalization into your marketing strategies?

Personalization depends on the channel you’re utilizing. Direct mail personalization varies slightly from email personalization; while both of those are different from what consumers expect from a mobile app personalized experience. Two of the most popular channels for personalized offers and marketing are direct mail and email campaigns. Take a look at what’s working and why:

directmail email personalization

How can you personalize based on audience segments?

Some easy ways to personalize without getting too deep in the weeds with individual personalization every time, include personalizing on a segment category level. These methods can include:

  • Location – zip codes, cities, states, census tracts, etc.
    • Using location can quickly bucket segments based on what offers might appeal to them based on what’s around them; what the demographic profile of the area typically is; or even by allowing you to compare where your current customer base currently exists to analyze similarities or find additional close locations to draw in new prospects that are similar to your current base. 
  • Age
    • Some businesses have a defined age base to market to – for example, a financial institution is typically only going to market to 18 or older adults who would qualify for their offers. On the other hand, retailers for teens may have two audiences to be cognizant of: parents, and 12-18 year olds. By creating two separate campaigns for each of those age groups, they’ll increase their success rate with both the prime prospect and the prime decision maker in the household. 
  • Interests – hobbies, preferences, groups, etc. 
    • There’s plenty of survey information available to target prospects who have filled in a form, questionnaire, or responded to a survey based on their hobbies or interests. You can also survey your own client base to find out what their interests are and create segments from there. For example, if you’re offering consumers credit cards, you may find that a third of your customers are interested in travel, another third are interested in shopping sprees, and the last third are interested in financial security – you have three very different segments that will respond to marketing campaigns based on their connection to the perceived offer. You’d want to create different messaging, offers, and keywords to appeal to each group.
  • Timing data – last purchase date, last activity date, last visit date, etc. 
    • Maintain a client database to track consumers’ last transaction data. For healthcare providers, last visit date may be a great indicator that it’s time to provide a recurring reminder to patients to make their yearly appointment. For retailers, the last visit or activity date means that it may be time to send a “Miss you – take 10% off” offer to their consumers. It’s always easier to retain your clients than acquire new ones, as the old adage goes. Pick a reasonable time frame to flag when it’s time to market a timed campaign – for some it might be 6 months, others may be as short as four weeks. Typically, any time less than a month is too soon and usually three months is the average time you’d want to send a recurring marketing piece. 
  • Past preferences and activities – past purchases, preferences, etc. 
    • The best prospects are ones who have already indicated an interest or took action to make a purchase. Using past activity and preferences means that you should tailor your messages to prospects with coupons that extend offers on past products they’ve purchased, or alerting them to an update to a product or service they’ve indicated interest in. This is a great way to re-engage and keep consumers happy and feeling like they’re valued and listened to without cluttering their mailbox, email, or phone. These kinds of personalized offers are typically liked the most by consumers and perform the best.


Don’t just use a prospect or client’s name and say you’ve done enough! Everything, from messaging to channel use to offer timing to the actual offer or message, should be impacted by personalization data. Always use fresh and accurate data – using incorrect information is worse than not personalizing at all!

Many consumers prefer to receive offers based on past preferences and purchases and see reminders for certain products and services (such as bills, prescriptions, or recurring services) as useful instead of invasive. It’s easy to use personalization to re-engage customers, as well as create segment buckets that use many data points and elements to create effective and tailored messaging and marketing pieces to increase response rates, open rates, click rates…or whatever else is your primary measurement of success!

Direct mail and email are two of the top marketing channels, and knowing who your audience is, where they are, what they like and what they respond to are hugely important aspects of implementing great personalization into your marketing – both to current clients and new prospects. Maintaining and tracking customer data points allow you to get to know your audience and keep your marketing fresh and appealing to each audience segment you choose to market to, as well as provide valuable insight into what’s working and what’s not.