Why “Segment of One” Mobile Personalization Techniques Don’t Work

January 17, 2018 Vibes News

When we talk about personalization as it applies to marketing, not everyone’s impression of what that means is the same. Many marketers approach personalization by marketing to a “segment of one,” but that fails to help them scale across channels.

They’re eager to, as a metaphor, create a new flavor of ice cream for each and every customer. The result? These marketers end up exhausted, broke, and haven’t achieved the sales goals they set.

In our recently released mobile personalization report, Personalization and the Era of Individualized Mobile Experiences, we look at how the concept of personalization is evolving, as well as what role mobile marketing has in it. Here, we look at a few highlights, as well as why techniques used in the past are no longer successful in reaching customers.

Infinite Flavors of Ice Cream Doesn’t Solve the Problem

Certainly, we’ve come a long way since the time when the concept of “personalizing” emails simply meant addressing them “Dear [Firstname].”

Technology has allowed us to delve into exactly what a customer wants, providing marketers with unparalleled opportunities to deliver it. But does that mean that we need to offer individualized products and solutions to every single customer?

In fact, the more choice you offer customers, the less likely they are to convert. Coined the “paradox of choice” by American psychologist Barry Schwartz, the premise is this:

The more options you give people, the more overwhelmed they will be, and the less likely they are to choose any of the options.

So offering unlimited ice cream flavors? Doesn’t do your business any good.

Let’s instead look at a successful personalization model: Chipotle.

Chipotle’s menu consists of four bases to start your order: a burrito, burrito bowl, tacos, or a salad. You can then opt for one of a handful of protein choices, then a dozen or so toppings. Diners have much choice, but it is limited, so Chipotle can give each customer a personalized experience that is within reason. You can be sure that the brand tested each of the components to ensure that it would sell. You don’t often see a new product, like nachos, for example, sprout up on the menu because Chipotle knows what its customers want.

The Role of Analytics

Mobile analytics, personalization tools, and behavioral targeting are all fairly new to most brands, who are still relying on standard web analytics. While certainly, Google Analytics can tell you which of your product pages the majority of visitors are going to, it can’t help you understand mobile behavior all that well.

That’s where these other metric platforms come into play. But it’s not just the data that matters here. The data must be also tied to a clear business outcome so that your marketing team can connect the dots between campaigns and results.

Additionally, the human factor comes into play when you’re looking at a 1:1 personalization approach. Many companies confuse knowing who your customer is with knowing what experience the consumer expects in his or her moment of need and why. Simply creating buyer personas may not address a given persona’s particular need at a given moment. Again, analytics come into play, as you develop your multi-touch cross-channel mobile marketing strategy.

Mastering True 1-to-1 Personalization

Successful personalization doesn’t involve providing infinite options, but rather knowing which options will appeal to the largest number of customers. The magic comes from building a flexible model that allows you to offer a completely unique option for each individual, even when their wants and needs vary greatly from that of other customers.

And the more you track customer behavior, the better you can personalize subsequent offers. When you pay attention to the metrics,  personalization can place your customer at the center of your mobile marketing experience, designing it not only for them, but around them.


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