Customer Personalization: The Good, Bad and Ugly of 2017

In 2017 we learned how important customer personalization truly is; according to Accenture the retail industry lost out on $756 billion due to a failure to personalize. To add insult to injury the same study showed that 44% of US consumers became frustrated when companies failed to provide relevant personalized experiences. <insert grimacing face here>. The good news is that 2017 is over and in 2018 marketers can use their new budget to create a smarter engagement strategy! With this in mind we wanted to look back at the past year and point out a brand doing personalization right, another one that needs a bit of work and a couple that are dangerously behind the eight ball.

The Good: Spotify

When it comes to personalization, Spotify is a brand that’s hitting the nail on the head. On a weekly basis they provide curated lists of songs one might enjoy in addition to a whole “Discover” section where they use past listening history to recommend bands, songs and playlists. This year they took personalization to the next level with the “Your 2017 Wrapped” campaign. In the campaign they show users their favorite songs, artists and genres from the past year as well as provide a playlist of the user’s most played songs and another of ones “that might have gotten away”. Spotify is like a friend who consistently introduces you to your next favorite song.


How can other companies learn from Spotify’s strategy?

According to Salesforce’s Personalization in Shopping Report, “Shoppers that clicked a product recommendation spent an average of 12.9 minutes on-site vs. 2.9 minutes for those that didn’t click recommendations.” Leveraging past listening history to provide listeners with new music keeps them engaged and continuously using the platform. Companies such as Amazon, Shopbop and Netflix offer product recommendations based on past purchase and browsing history in order to increase customer spend, engagement and loyalty. Similar to Spotify, these brands use the information they know about their customers to consistently introduce new products, experiences and content.


The Bad: Fanatics

The licensed sportswear and merchandise company Fanatics sends a decent personalized notification every so often. I’m certainly guilty of being drawn in by them from time to time. Their product recommendation engine has its merits as well. However, there are a few problems that have subjugated Fanatics to the “Bad” category. The biggest problem I have with Fanatics is the absurd amount of emails they send on a daily basis. In the past three days I’ve received 14 emails from them! I understand it’s the holiday season, but showing the same “Up to 65% Off + Guaranteed Delivery” isn’t getting my attention anymore. That’s not just me talking either; 69% of people unsubscribe from email subscriptions due to receiving too many emails, and 56% do so because the content is no longer relevant (Chadwick Martin Bailey).  


How can companies learn from the Fanatics email mistake?

Salesforce’s Personalization in Shopping Report also revealed that 37% of shoppers that placed an order clicked a recommendation. Instead of sending a bevy of notifications, provide customers with timely and personalized engagements. Utilize purchase history to provide recommendations that I didn’t necessarily think of, send me notifications when I’m likely to be shopping, and remind me of products I’ve shown an intent to purchase before. 1:1 marketing isn’t the future anymore; it’s the now, and the brands that capitalize on this will be the ones that are having the most success in 2018.

The Ugly: & Megabus

Two companies that failed to provide customers with personalized engagements this past year are and Megabus. Failure to recognize customers, and what they’ve done is not acceptable in this day and age. No longer can companies make the mistake of sending an email with an opening greeting of ‘Hello FirstName’, like the one sent my colleague, after she had just made a purchase! And to provide a known customer with an excellent product recommendation to drive her back online was missed as a result of seemingly disparate data sources.


Megabus also missed the customer personalization mark when they sent me a notification about booking my holiday travel, even though I had already booked my travel plans through their website. The notification was also sent in the middle of December when plans have already been made and most of their busses have been filled to capacity.

How can companies prevent these mistakes?

The first step for companies to prevent these types of mistakes is to ensure that they have a unified, dynamic view of their customers that is updated in real time. Only with this 360° profile can brands deliver the smart customer engagements required to create stronger customer relationships. Transforming and modernizing your brand’s data strategy can positively impact engagements as simple as including a person’s first name in a push notification to more complex strategies like algorithm-driven product recommendations.

In 2018, the brands that are getting customer personalization right will be applauded. Their smarter engagements will increase customer delight; their relevant product recommendations will increase frequency, receny and spend and their 1:1 marketing will foster long-lasting loyalty. Leave the blunders of 2017 behind. It’s time to move forward. Customer personalization is vital to your company’s success this year.