Personalization vs Individualization in Marketing: What They Are and How To Apply Them

Personalization vs Individualization in Marketing: What They Are and How To Apply Them
23 February, 2023 • ... • 8239 views
Alexey Baguzin
by Alexey Baguzin

Marketers nowadays are focused on delivering tailored messages to their buyers. The efforts to focus on what the shoppers want are known as personalization. However, recently another term popped up: individualization, a logical successor to personalization. In this piece we are going to cover the personalization vs individualization differences, their benefits, and how both terms came about.

What is personalization?

Personalization is a segmentation of a group of customers based on their characteristics — to then make these customers offers which suit them best. The criteria for putting people in one group or another varies from simple demographic factors (such as age, gender or occupation) to more complex, like interests and purchase history .

A straightforward, yet powerful, example of personalization is Coca-Cola’s 2011 “Share a Coke with” campaign which put first names on their bottles. This was an attempt to connect with millennials on a more personal level and it paid off: Coca-Cola saw their first rise in sales in 4 years.

Coca-Cola personalized their bottles by using first names for their “Share a Coke with” campaign
Image source: Medium

What is individualization?

Individualization is when you put one single customer at the heart of your message. It’s not simply putting together people with some common qualities in the same group (although marketers have amassed a scary amount of personal info). It’s about creating a segment of one individual, much like with account-based marketing.

Spotify serves as a good example here. Their “Spotify Wrapped” feature is unique for every single user, and allows you to enjoy your very own playlist at the end of each year. Bundled together with sentimental value and share-ability, it makes for one hell of a marketing strategy.

Spotify Wrapped personalized end-of-year playlist
Image Source: Kerrang

Benefits of a personal approach in marketing

  1. A better customer experience

When you show you understand your clients’ pain points, their problems, 1 in 4 clients will become more loyal to your brand. This will turn their experience from a simple transaction to building a trust bond — and they turn to you again in their time of need. Research also demonstrates 91% of customers are much more likely to choose brands who place them at the center. 

  1. Increased loyalty

This ties into the previous point: 9 out of 10 customers will return to shop with you again if their previous experience was a pleasant one. There’s an ugly side too: almost 60% will abandon your brand after several bad experiences, 1 in 5 will do so after just one.

  1. A higher ROI (return on investment)

This is natural: when people see an offer they like, they are more likely to pounce. A lot of purchases are impulse buys. You can tap into that well by personalizing your shoppers’ experience, i.e. sending them the right offer at the right time. Brands which do so report an additional staggering 40% revenue.

How personalization and individualization evolved together with data-driven marketing

Marketing has gone through several stages before finally arriving at its current state of individualization. Here’s a brief description of each.

  1. Mass marketing

The earliest version of marketing your product. Mass marketing focused on delivering a single message to as wide an audience as possible, in the hope that some people from it would be interested enough to buy. It failed to segment the shoppers in any significant way.

Newspapers were first on the scene of mass marketing: the first ad was published in 1704. Billboards followed in the 1800s, and then radio piled on in the 1920s.

  1. A/B testing

The roots of A/B testing can be traced to a rather grim setting of 18th century England. This was when a doctor by the name of James Lind suggested that scurvy (old wounds opening up, a then common problem amongst the Royal Navy sailors) was due to a lack of vitamin C. So he created several control groups and gave them varying amounts of lemons and oranges daily.

In marketing the technique only became popular in the 1990s and is now used to test the effectiveness of almost anything: from website colors and CTA sizes to subject lines in your direct email marketing campaigns.

Looking for further ways to tailor your email messaging? We’ve got you covered with our email personalization techniques.

  1. Segmentation

Segmentation allows marketers to put consumers in different groups based on their profiles. The profiles are based on information such as age, location, occupation, interests and much more. All of this is done to craft different messages that would appeal to different segments, thus boosting sales.

  1. Personalization

An in-depth segmentation technique. Many companies market their personalization techniques as individualization, when in reality they are not quite at that level yet. Personalization places more emphasis on individuals within the same segments, but it can still be hit or miss with different people — even if they share some common characteristics.

  1. Individualization

It’s basically creating a segment of one person: crafting a truly individual approach to each customer based on their needs, desires and precious history with you. Naturally, for that to be even possible, brands should know a ton about their shoppers, and make an extra effort to connect with each of them on a human level.

Challenges of personalization and individualization

Gather data without creeping out your shoppers

To offer a truly personalized experience, you’ll need all the data on your customers you can get. This data can be gathered in 2 ways:

  • Analytics which track users’ behavior and purchase history
  • Forms and questionnaires your customers fill out

The bottom line is this: if they value your service, the majority of consumers will be happy to give up their private information in exchange for an individual approach. But you still have to strike a balance when collecting data.

Stop before your marketing efforts become annoying

People love when brands offer personal experiences: but if you overdo it with frequent retargeting ads and recommendations, they might start to wonder if it’s all worth it. You should aim to provide value with your recommendations, without at the same time making your customers wary of just how much you know about them.

Dedicate sufficient resources

Personalization requires a massive amount of data, individualization even more so. You have to collect it, store it, act on it, and then measure results to decide on the future course of action.

Some of it can be done with the help of automations, but not everything. A person will still need to decide which data is important, how and when to implement a strategy based on it — and even the manner in which the data is collected.

Machines cannot do that, so ensure you have a large enough marketing team to make those decisions.

Marketing tools for personalization and individualization

There are a bunch of services that can help your business create a personal experience for consumers. We’ll name one for each important category.

Email marketing: Selzy

We at Selzy believe email sales should be a breeze. You need to be able to quickly launch an email campaign which reaches millions — without sweating over lines of code. That’s why we created a service which helps you set up a personalized email campaign (or a newsletter) in less than 15 minutes. Here are some of its key personalization features:

  • Audience segmentation by 70+ criteria (e.g. interests and preferences, age, income level)
  • In-mail personalization: use your customers’ names, cities, titles, dates and more
  • Triggered emails (when your customers perform a certain action, like making a purchase)
  • Reminders (e.g. on abandoned carts)
  • Send time optimization: increase open and click-through rates by sending your campaign at just the right time
Selzy’s homepage
Image source: Selzy

Website content: Optimonk

Optimonk allows you to personalize a wide array of messages that visitors see on your website. The service’s key features include:

Key features:

  • Embedded content (such as personal offers, incentives and surveys)
  • Overlays (pop ups, side messages and sticky bars to get your customers’ attention)
  • Product recommendations based on consumers’ previous behavior
Optimonk’s homepage
Image source: Optimonk

Social proof: Proof

Proof allows you to add all kinds of social proof to your website. Customers are more likely to take action if they know other people are already doing so: it’s based on fear of missing out on a great experience. Proof allows you to add:

  • Hot streaks: people who have recently taken an action (e.g. shared content, left a comment, purchased something).
  • Live visitor count: how many people are currently on the site, or on one particular page.

On a side note, it’s one of the tactics Ahrefs leverage. They display how many people subscribed in the past week on their homepage. Well, thousands of people can’t choose a crappy service, can they? (No sarcasm here, we love Ahrefs).

Ahrefs displays how many new accounts were created in the last week
Image source: Ahrefs

Data collection: Segment

Segment enables you to collect all consumer-related events and not just on your site: across all your channels. You can then use the data to offer a more individual approach. The key features include:

  • Complete view of the customer: unify your shopper’s entire journey, all of his points of interaction across all channels.
  • Real-time audiences: build audiences with the same traits (such as customer behavior) and target them with tailored campaigns right away.
Segment’s homepage
Image source: Segment

Performance tracking: Google Optimize

Google Optimize lets you track the effectiveness of changes you make to your website content. It’s integrated with Google Analytics as well, to help you understand how your website can be further improved. Key features include:

  • Data: collect performance data and use it together with insights from Google Analytics.
  • Testing: run tests to see what works for your consumers and what doesn’t — this includes A/B testing and multivariate tests.
  • Targeting: craft a personalized experience with the help of advanced targeting options.
Google Optimize’s homepage
Image source: Google Optimize

Image and video personalization: Hyperise

Hyperise is a website personalization tool which stands out by giving the unusual option to change images, videos, texts and even CTAs based on who’s visiting. Key features include:

  • Personalized images: create multi-layered images to be displayed to different audiences
  • Video personalization: same principle as with images
Hyperise’s homepage
Image source: Hyperise

Examples of personalized and individualized campaigns

  1. Cadbury’s Glow 2014 campaign

The famous chocolate brand was looking to boost sales in India in 2014 — and launched a individualized video campaign to this end. To make it tailored to each individual, Cadbury asked for permission to access your Facebook profile. It then compiled all your photos into a unique video.

Most brands would stop at that, but Cadbury added a twist: they recommended your personal brand of chocolate at the end. The results were remarkable: over 90% of users watched the video till the end, and 33% of those who clicked on it and completed a promotion form went on to buy something.

  1. Netflix’s tailored artwork

Everyone’s familiar with their personal recommendations by now: depending on which shows and movies you watch, Netflix engine offers you other series and pictures you might like. But they don’t stop at that.

Turns out Netflix even changes the artwork on the shows they suggest are best suited for you. A whole new layer to making personalization a powerful instrument.

Netflix shows different covers for “Kill Bill” depending on whether you prefer Uma Thurman or John Travolta
Image source: Medium
  1. EasyJet’s personal connection

In 2015 EasyJet sent their clients over 12M emails within a single campaign. But not just any emails: each one was a unique combination of 28 data points for a particular user, which shaped a personal narrative for every customer.

The narrative could be a simple one: a sentimental video about the first time someone used EasyJet, or a prediction of where they’d like to go next. But the individual touch made the campaign a roaring success: open rates doubled and click-through rates increased by 25%.

EasyJet’s lowdown on every client’s journey with them
Image source: Pinterest
  1. Target’s pregnancy prediction

Target, a merchandise retailer company, did something equally fascinating and frightening: they predicted when their female customers were in the early stages of pregnancy. In one particular case, they figured out a teenage girl was pregnant before her own father did.

How? Target analyzed their customers’ shopping habits, and came to the conclusion that buying patterns rarely change — unless a big upcoming event forces them to. A newborn baby falls into this category.

So when their customers started shopping for unusual stuff, Target knew what was up. And started sending promotion offers for more baby items.

Of course, Target had to tread carefully. This level of insight borders on spying and privacy intrusion, which could have been a public disaster for the brand.

How to create individualized customer experiences

The first thing you should do is understand that creating such an experience is not a simple journey from A to B. Marketing evolves, customers and their preferences shift, which makes your goal an ongoing process of adapting to changes and serving up better and better experiences.

After that, you’d do well so start small when setting out to create a truly individualized offer. Here are the broad strokes for you to keep in mind:

  1. Choose a marketing channel you own.
  2. Collect behavioral data from it.
  3. Analyze the data by looking at it through the lens of your business objective for this campaign.
  4. Reintegrate this data back in your marketing channel of choice.
  5. Automate the whole process.

After you’ve successfully mastered this using one channel, you can scale the operation to your other owned channels — before making the jump to paid and earned networks.

Final thoughts

Marketing individualization is the next logical step from personalization. It introduces an even more customer-centric approach for brands to pursue, where instead of preaching to small groups with similar interests, companies try to tailor their message to each one of their clients.

Done right, an increased level of personalization can lead to a better experience for your customers, improved consumer loyalty and boosted return on investment. Tools such as OptiMonk, Proof, Segment, Google Optimize and Hyperise can help you with that.

There are numerous examples of brands successfully pulling it off though. Coca-Cola, Spotify, Cadbury, Netflix, EasyJet and Target have all found ways to produce hyper-personalized experiences which increased their popularity and sales.

However, you do need to be wary of challenges personalization and individualization pose. You need to gently collect data without being annoying, toe the line of privacy intrusion and allocate enough resources to actually pull the enterprise off.

We hope our article goes a long way towards helping you do that. Good luck!

Article by
Alexey Baguzin
Alex has an master's in Journalism, a keen interest in eCommerce & email marketing and a background of writing articles dating back to 2015. He reads about copywriting in his spare time, watches Netflix and supports Arsenal. He's into rock of all sorts - most recently Muse.
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