It isn’t enough to master your marketing communications through one channel if your current or prospective customers engage with you in many different channels. And for most companies, it is pretty safe to assume they are. There will be four connected devices for every person in the world by 2020. There will be 5 billion mobile internet users by 2025. And 58% of total US retail sales will be digitally impacted by 2022 according to Forrester (in other words, some part of the shopping journey will take place through a digital channel).

With so many channels to engage audiences, and with customer expectations growing by the day, the ability to recognize and respond to a single person is critical to future marketing success.

Of course, you can and should personalize any channel in which you interact with customers. But these are the eight you should prioritize.

1. Website

Many digital marketers view their website as their most important channel. Whether your goal is to drive online sales, generate leads or maximize page views, there is typically some action you want a visitor to take while on your site. As a result, many of your online marketing activities are focused on driving traffic there. Given its importance, it’s critical to show each person exactly what they are looking for on your site to drive those conversions or page views. Personalization – whether using rule-based targeting to segments or machine-learning algorithms at the one-to-one level – allows you to do that.

Invaluable — the world’s leading online marketplace for fine art, antiques and collectibles — uses personalization to recommend items for each of its collectors beyond what he or she has viewed in the past. For example, this completely individualized page on the Invaluable site displays a collection of items, artists, auctions, categories and blog articles catered to each person’s tastes.

cross-channel personalization

2. Web App

For subscription-based businesses like SaaS, financial services, publishers and many retailers, the logged-in environment (also called web applications) is often the primary interface for engaging with customers. There is a huge opportunity to personalize the logged-in environment to identify when users need help and direct them to the most relevant resources, drive users to leverage features that can help them get the most value out of the product, identify churn risks and upsell opportunities, and more.

For example, EIG’s HostGator brand uses in-app personalization to reduce customer support inquiries and costs. HostGator identified common technical issues encountered by customers and used personalization to proactively serve up tips and suggestions and the most relevant self-help articles. The company estimates that it redirected thousands of support calls and online chats to self-help options in the first six months.

cross-channel personalization

3. Mobile App

Personalization on mobile devices is much like website and web app personalization: it helps users find the most relevant content, categories and products. But personalization is even more critical for mobile experiences. On a desktop website, visitors can hunt for what is relevant to them. While this is not an ideal situation, the larger screen allows visitors to search through large amounts of information to find what they’re looking for when there’s no choice but to hunt. But the smaller screens of mobile devices make this much more difficult. Marketers need to surface relevant information to mobile users very quickly so users will not give up before finding what they need.

For example, a travel app can share a specific deal only with users who have booked a flight within the past month. Or an e-commerce app can deliver personalized recommendations that boost brand and price affinities to help shoppers find products they will be interested in, quickly and easily. An effective personalization solution can even allow you to build, test and implement various messaging campaigns in your app, without involving developers or waiting for an app store release. 

4. Push Notifications

Push notifications are another important area for personalization in mobile. Push notifications are messages that a company can send a user, provided that user has the company’s mobile app on his phone or tablet. He does not need to be using the app or even using his phone to be sent a push notification. It simply appears on his device and looks similar to a text message or other mobile alert. As such, push notifications are quite effective for reaching your audience.

But when considering push notifications, don’t forget about the close connection people often have with their mobile devices. For many, a mobile phone is the last thing they see before bed and the first thing they see when they awake. As such, mobile users want to feel that they can control what appears on their phone, and they will be quick to change settings to avoid any notifications they find obtrusive.

Any push notification you send should be truly relevant and helpful to the individual receiving it. For example, a news app could recognize that a user generally consumes content about politics and entertainment across both the mobile app and desktop site. The app could send the user breaking news stories in only these two categories — and not, for example, in sports. With fewer, more relevant notifications, the user is more likely to find the push notifications a valuable part of his experience with the app, rather than an annoyance.

5. Email

Email undoubtedly remains a critical communication channel – one used by nearly all businesses today. Many marketers already leverage personalization in their emails to some degree. In fact, we found in a recent study with Researchscape International that email is the most personalized channel. Which is good news because the Radicati Group estimates that in 2019, the total number of emails sent and received a day will reach 293 billion. That number is expected to reach 347 billion by the end of 2023. Cutting through that noise is absolutely critical for all businesses, and ensuring that each of your emails is relevant to every individual you reach is a great place to start. You don’t want to be tuned out.

You need to ensure that your email personalization efforts extend beyond adding in a person’s first name or company. That means delivering emails that are relevant at open time, triggering relevant emails based on a person’s behavior (as in Carhartt’s cart abandonment email example below) or other criteria, and determining if or when to send bulk emails to specific individuals. Learn more about these different types of email personalization in “3 Types of Personalization You Should Be Using to Make Your Emails More Relevant.”

cross-channel personalization

6. Digital advertising

I think we can all agree that the average person is exposed to a very large number of ads each day, more than anyone could realistically absorb. And for a marketer, it can be difficult to stand out among all of this clutter, particularly when the intended audience is focused on another task (such as reading content on a publisher’s site or scrolling through a social network’s newsfeed) when an ad is displayed.

Personalization can help ensure that ads are relevant to each viewer, to better catch each person’s attention. The key to relevant digital advertising is to leverage all you know about a person from her engagement with your brand across all channels. This will ensure that ads are viewed as valuable, relevant messages rather than spam.

With retargeting, you can advertise to the same segments that you communicate with on your website — or any other segment you create. For example, a B2B site can create segments of visitors in specific industries and then target relevant ads to those industries across the internet. A financial services site could create a segment of visitors who had shown an interest in student loans and then target those visitors with student-related ads. Marketers could even leverage their adtech providers to deliver ads to people who are similar to those in their segments via look-alike models.

7. Direct mail

Direct mail may sound a little old-fashioned, especially as our world grows increasingly more digital by the day. But marketers across a variety of industries continue to leverage and drive significant value from this tried-and-true channel. As email inboxes become overrun, mail sent to physical inboxes can stand out. Of course, the same concepts of avoiding “batch and blast” generic messages apply to this inbox too.   

As with other channels, you want to use the data you’ve accumulated about your customers and prospects across touchpoints to reach them with effective messaging through the mail. 

How might companies identify whom to include in direct mail campaigns? A B2B company could mail an invitation for its annual event to known prospects who had engaged meaningfully on its site or spoken with a sales rep in the last six months. An e-commerce company could mail a promotion to shoppers who had made purchases in the past, but not bought anything in the last three months, and were interested in a particular category.

Creative marketers can come up with an endless number of ideas, but the key to success with direct mail is data and segmentation (along with a healthy budget).

8. Human

The human channel is in some ways the most obvious form of personalization, because it’s very easy to provide a personalized experience to a customer when in a one-on-one conversation with him. But at the same time it can be the least obvious form of personalization, as many marketers do not realize that they can use the same principles and the same valuable information that they collect in all of the previously mentioned channels to pass on to call center, online chat, in-store or in-branch associates, or customer success and sales personnel to enable more relevant customer engagement.

For example, a B2B salesperson prospecting into an account can provide a personalized experience too. When preparing for a sales call, she can look into the activity of all visitors associated with the account – including an account’s activity history, preferred solutions, categories and content — to steer the conversation in a relevant direction even before asking any discovery questions.

Final Thoughts

The key to recognizing and responding to individuals across all of the channels lies with the data. You have to bring all of your customer data together in a single place (such as a customer data platform, or CDP) and merge profiles together to form one single profile for each individual. Then you need to be able to act on it to deliver the types of personalized experiences I’ve outlined in this post.

To discover how one-to-one personalization is driven by machine learning, delivered across channels and powered by in-depth customer data, download our full-length book, One-to-One Personalization in the Age of Machine Learning, for free today!