How to Enable Digital Personalization at Scale

What portion of your marketing efforts are truly personalized? For many retailers, the answer is somewhere between 10-20%.

But what if you could flip that mix to reach the point where only 10-20% of your marketing efforts were not personalized? Now that would be a game changer.

Defining the Problem with Personalization at Scale

Personalizing over 80% of your marketing efforts might sound ideal, but is it possible?

We often hear that retail marketers have a personalization problem. They know they need to personalize their digital marketing and have a vision for what that personalization should entail, but implementing that vision proves difficult.

In reality, it’s not a personalization problem; it’s a technology problem. Most retailers simply don’t have the martech stack required to turn even the best personalization strategies into action.

That’s because the challenges most retailers face stem from not having the appropriate technology to turn even the most well-thought-out digital personalization strategies into action.

But a handful of leaders have overcome this problem and proven there is a way forward. So what sets these leaders apart? And what can your retail marketing team learn from their success?

7 Steps to Achieve Digital Personalization at Scale

After speaking with retailers who have successfully scaled their personalized marketing, we learned that having the right technology was only the first step toward achieving their ideal personalized marketing mix. Successful retailers also had to follow a seven-step process:

  1. Start small
  2. Align with leadership
  3. Keep retention top-of-mind
  4. Improve data collection and accessibility
  5. Partner with the right vendor
  6. Focus on relevance
  7. Prepare for downstream impact


Accomplishing each of these goals required teams to work together strategically, with ample planning involved for each step. Let’s examine each step in greater detail.

1. Take a Phased Approach

A truly personalized marketing program won’t materialize overnight — even if you have the technology to make it happen. From preparing your team to mapping out a strategy, you need to take a phased approach to move from 10% personalized marketing to 30% to 50% and so on.

To do so, think through your long term (24+ month) marketing goals and set milestones along the way that will help you reach those goals. For example, you might start by launching a core set of behavioral triggered emails for site retargeting and then expand your trigger program to react to changes in your product catalog before introducing personalized batch emails.

2. Secure Buy-In from Leadership

For any change to be successful, you need buy-in at the leadership level. Whether the change comes from the top down or you have an active sponsor in the c-suite, you need someone at the top of the organization to buy in on the vision and evangelize it internally.

Flipping your marketing mix on its head isn’t easy, particularly because the impact isn’t always immediately obvious. It requires a thoughtful leader to take a step back and say even though sending another static batch email will guarantee immediate revenue, that might not be the best move for the long-term customer retention.

3. Think About the Big Picture

A thoughtful and strategic personalized marketing program spans beyond a single channel or campaign. It’s a thread that weaves across marketing channels, regardless of where and when customers engage.

As a result, it’s important to think about the best way to market to customers that will boost retention and value long term. That means you can’t simply think about how to get one more purchase from customers by offering 20% off — you need to think through what will increase engagement and get customers to come back for two, three and four more purchases. And you need to think about how that plays out across channels.

4. Prioritize Accessibility to Data

If you get caught in the Email Death Spiral, in which your team has to take on an exhaustive stream of manual activities only to send a single email, you’ll find yourself in trouble as you attempt to scale your personalized marketing.

To deliver personalized marketing at scale, you need to make data easily accessible and actionable for marketing users. Specifically, having all of your data in a single place (specifically, customer, product, and behavioral data) then introducing streamlined workflows for using that data across channels can make it possible to take on more personalized marketing, more often and with less effort.

5. Look Beyond the Technology

As noted above, one of the biggest barriers retailers face to scaling their personalized marketing efforts is having the right retail technology in place. But as you search for a solution that can change that, it’s also important to look beyond the technology to understand what kind of strategic partner the vendor can be.

Ideally, you want a technology vendor who will spend time with your organization to understand your overarching business objectives and help determine the most strategic ways to use their solution to achieve those goals. As part of this search, be sure to look for vendors with retail expertise by evaluating what they’re doing in the industry and what they offer on top of the latest technology.

6. Prepare for Relevance, Not a Promotional Calendar

Not every customer is ready to buy all the time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use relevant customer outreach to build and strengthen your relationships.

This realization should prompt a shift in your marketing as it moves away from a promotional calendar and toward a cadence driven by what individual customers expect. In this world, you need to do more than make a relevant offer at the right time — you need to align with the entire customer journey. This means also thinking through ways to have relevant, non-promotional conversations with shoppers who aren’t ready to buy.

7. Think About the Downstream Impact

Finally, as you expand your personalized marketing and move beyond a promotional calendar, you need to think through how this will impact other areas of your business.

For instance, as the cadence of engagement and purchases change, that can impact everyone from your merchandising team to your warehouse workers. That downstream impact is something for which the entire organization must prepare.

Delivering on the Promise of Personalization

By carefully planning your personalization strategy and shifting the culture of your organization to support everything that comes with it, you’ll enjoy increased customer retention and acquisition.

Want to know how to successfully turn personalization strategies into action? Check out our eBook on the email personalization problem to find out.