Last Updated: November 25, 2020

Imagine your book-loving friend’s birthday is approaching, and you’re going shopping for his or her present. Skipping the local bookstore, you sit down at your computer, open your web browser, and head straight to While browsing for your friend’s present, you’re naturally treated to a few more recommendations from Amazon.

Odd, you think as you glance at their suggestions; usually they do a much better job suggesting things you like. Then you notice that significat other signed in last, and that account is active. With a quick logout and re-login, you sign into your account — and to new recommendations that are far more suited to your tastes. (And now, you have some idea of what to buy your SO for his or her birthday.)

What is personalized marketing?

Personalized marketing is the ultimate form of targeted marketing, creating messages for individual consumers (See also Targeted Marketing). That said, it is most often an automated process, using computer software to craft the individual messages, and building customer-centric recommendation engines instead of company-centric selling engines.

In addition to customized promotions, personalized marketing can also be applied to the products themselves by using a configuration system which allows customers to choose individual specifications for the products they’re interested in. By offering consumers products they already want, businesses are far more likely to convert online visits to sales.

Who implements personalized marketing?

What can be personalized?

  • Direct mail
  • Web site interactions
  • Mobile advertising
  • B2B communications

More companies are implementing some level of personalization into their marketing campaigns, with Internet-based companies leading the way.

Internet software allows companies to identify the physical locations customers are signing in from, keep records of customers’ transactions with them, and use tracking cookies to learn about consumers’ other shopping interests. With this data, a website can personalize a visitor’s experience by showing them a customized page, featuring their language preference and products and offers they are more likely to be interested in. (See also Behavioral Marketing)

Other companies are leading the way in terms of product personalization. For years, Dell Computers has invited customers to “build” their computers by selecting the various specifications for their machine. Meanwhile shoe sellers Mi Adidas and NIKEiD both invite their customers to do the same with their shoe purchases, selecting design elements and color according to their individual preferences.

Outside of the Internet, grocery stores with loyalty cards are also personalizing the shopping experience, sending coupons to customers based on their purchase history. Personalized service has always been an element of the small business and local store, where people know their customers by name; now database technologies are equipping larger businesses to personalize as well.

For what kinds of customers is personalized marketing effective?

In contrast to mass marketing, sending messages to large groups of customers—or even targeted marketing, which focuses on a particular consumer segment—personalized marketing delivers to an audience of one. So, theoretically it should be effective with every customer. In practice, however, the ability to personalize depends on the information that’s available about the customer; therefore, personalized marketing is most effective with consumers who are most comfortable with sharing information.

The good news is that more people are willing to exchange a modicum of privacy for a personalized experience. Compared to the total population, younger people—who have grown up with technology—are more comfortable with sharing information than older customers.

How is a personalized marketing campaign developed?

Personalization marketing actually has impacts across a range of other marketing campaigns:

Aspects of Personalized Messaging

  • customer’s name
  • customer’s preferred communications channel
  • reference to customer’s history and current/anticipated needs
  • interactivity in communication
  • Internet marketing. In addition to making personalized recommendations, web pages can also be designed to display other content based on customer history; in fact, entire landing pages can be built out of this. Thus, when a customer arrives at the website, the referral source, geographic location, and purchase history can all influence what is presented on the page.(See also Internet Marketing)
  • Direct mail and e-mail. Greeting somebody by first name is more engaging than “Dear customer,” but direct mailings can do so much more than that. Lead data can be integrated into the mailings, so that specific products or offers are highlighted accordingly. This is markedly easier with e-mail, but reductions in variable printing costs make it possible for physical mail as well. For example, if your mailing list is generated from your customer database, then information on prior purchases can be used to suggest future ones. Database marketing activities that already generate highly targeted lists can be used to cater to specific individuals as well. (See also Email Marketing)
  • Business-to-business (B2B). Before contacting agents and decision-makers in the target business, lead intelligence can be collected on the specific challenges they are facing in their position, and this used to frame pitches. Additionally, a search on LinkedIn can turn up mutual contacts that can be leveraged for references, or making a point of common contact. (See also B2B Marketing)
  • Social media marketing. This method enables you to respond to customers on social media, answering their questions and engaging them. A personal interaction here (as opposed to automated responses) goes a long way. It may seem like a lot of effort for a single customer, but those active in social media are more likely to share with friends, thus connecting you to even more contacts.

What career titles work with personalized marketing strategies?

Marketing Manager

What do they do?
  • promote personalization in various marketing programs, including direct marketing, social media, and web marketing
  • coordinate the various teams involved in preparing personalized messaging, including advertising and web page development
  • promote and price product personalization options
Education and Skills

Marketing managers must have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or business management, and must have some background with marketing software. They should also have at least three years’ experience in advertising, product development, or a related field, and have successfully managed a marketing team or multiple projects. Their educational background should cover marketing and research, communications, Internet technology, and business management.

Database Manager

What do they do?
  • build/manage databases for information collected from consumer transactions and prospecting
  • use database software to turn information on individual customer behavior into personalized offers
  • manage all communication between the database departments and marketing and sales
Education and Skills

Database managers often have a bachelor’s degree in marketing and/or information technology. They must be current on industry and database software. Additionally, they must demonstrate strong analytical and communications skills, in order to communicate with both the marketing department and database operators.

Software/Web Developer

What do they do?
  • design programs for integrating user data (including location, history, referral source, etc.) into web page presentation
  • develop software to apply individual customer data to printed marketing materials, monitor productions from the program and debug/update as necessary
  • develop applications for social media that contribute to the company/customer relationship, gathering customer data and turning it into personalized communication
Education and Skills

Software developers usually have a degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field; as well as have a strong background in their target industry (i.e., marketing if developing marketing applications). They also must have a background in programming, including HTML and Flash, and keep current with other programming languages needed in their field.

How can a marketing school help you succeed in this field?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

Effective personalized marketing requires being able to understand and communicate with customers in a meaningful way, even as those same customers are increasingly reached through technological channels rather than face-to-face ones.

A marketing program will train you to better understand how customers make decisions, and how they develop shopping habits online, on social media, and in physical stores. Courses in market research will teach you how to segment consumers into smaller and more defined groups, and identify changes and opportunities in customer demand. Courses in consumer behavior will train you to predict how customers will respond to different communications, from mobile messaging to direct mail to website presentation.

Communication is a core skill of all kinds of marketing, and is a significant component of most marketing programs. You’ll learn to develop the skills necessary to develop personalized messages without sounding overly familiar, employing verbal, graphic, multimedia, and interactive messages to communicate clearly and persuasively.

A marketing program will also teach about aspects of business organization and management, including product development (and how some aspects of that can be customized), distribution, pricing, and promotion. You’ll learn about doing business with both retailers and with the end consumer directly.