There is a disconnect in the world of personalization. Customers say they want better customer experiences. Marketers say that personalization is a priority for their businesses. Yet somehow, customers aren’t happy with the experiences they receive.

For example, in email — the most personalized marketing channel — only 7% of consumers agree with the statement “Email offers are usually well timed with my needs” (down from 9% the year before). Meanwhile, marketers ranked “improving the customer experience” first in their list of priorities for the year.

So how did this disconnect occur? According to Brendan Witcher, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, there are four primary causes, which he shared in a recent Evergage webinar with our CEO, Karl Wirth.

Personalization has historically been driven by segmentation

Segmentation has long been a practice in marketing, and it has many useful applications. But you need far more granularity than segments can provide in order to create deeply meaningful customer experiences that make customers feel that you are truly responding to their unique needs.

To create these personalized experiences, you can’t simply recommend products to a shopper that others shopped or bought. You need to recommend those products that are the best options for each individual. This requires a completely individualized approach to personalization, not a segmented one.

Single data points are often used to personalize the entire customer journey

Marketers have many opportunities to collect data on each person that interacts with their businesses across channels. Yet we often see that they aren’t using enough data (or the right data) to personalize their customer experiences.

A shopper cannot be reduced to a single purchase she made, or a single blog post she read. Rather, marketers should incorporate everything they know about a customer to build the most relevant experiences possible. This means considering past purchases, time spent engaging with certain products or categories, different types of content consumed, favorite brands and colors, typical price range, loyalty program status, and much more. In the past, marketers have struggled to collect all of this data in one place and act on it in real time, but technology exists to accomplish this today.

Organizations are quick to check the box on delivering personal experiences

Like other marketing trends driven by technology, “personalization” often gets thrown around as a buzzword within organizations. Some marketers have been quick to “check the box” to say that they deliver personal experiences to appease their leadership teams. But these quick and easy methods don’t always provide meaningful value to their customers.

For example, sending an email to a customer on his birthday is personal, but it isn’t necessarily meaningful. Helping a customer find exactly what he is looking for on your site is much more meaningful and helpful for the customer. Making that leap from “checking the box” to providing truly individualized experiences requires a well-planned strategy that impacts every area of the organization.

Organizations have not always respected personal boundaries

Collecting data online can often result in creepy practices that make your customers uneasy. Personalization gets a bad reputation when marketers don’t respect personal boundaries.

The important point to keep in mind is that personalization doesn’t need to be too obvious. Rather, it should just look like a great experience that is completely relevant to the individual.

Final Thoughts

This depiction of historical personalization struggles may sound bleak, but it isn’t the end of the story. In their webinar, Brendan and Karl address how the next era of personalization has arrived and share real-world examples. In this new era, marketers must provide great, individualized customer experiences, and they now have the technology to enable it. Be sure to watch the webinar replay for all the details!