Turn Existing Customers into Fiercely Loyal Customers with Personalized Advertising

October 5, 2022

by Jeff Pearlman

Marketers have a unique field of expertise when it comes to living in a digital world. You’ve seen behind the curtain — you know how advertising works, how to target a specific audience, and how to deliver a customized experience. This may enable you to appreciate a well-targeted ad, commercial or promotional email more … or it may leave you with a healthy dose of skepticism about personalization. 

However, your audience is probably not made up of marketers with that same behind-the-scenes knowledge. Many of the folks you target care greatly about privacy, having a safe online presence, and knowing how their data is used. But digital consumers are also highly driven by values and want to support e-commerce businesses that share their worldview. 

Essentially, this leaves e-commerce marketers with a blank space in the middle of a Venn diagram. On one side, you have consumers’ preferences for an individualized advertising experience that spans multiple channels. On the other, you have the waning world of data collection, making personalization more challenging. 

Lesser advertisers may rely on broad messaging in an attempt to garner mass appeal or deploy ads more frequently to try to remain top of mind. But to your audience, those tactics feel like an annoying tap on the shoulder saying “psst, buy my stuff!”

You are more sophisticated than that. Your audience wants an experience that feels custom-made, just for them. Here’s how you do it: 

What Personalized Advertising Is and Why it’s Important 

To your customers, personalized advertising represents a product or a service that is aligned with their needs, wants, and values. It’s an individualized experience: emails that use a first name, discounts for an item they’ve specifically looked at, or recommendations customized based on engagement and activity. Personalized experiences can happen at multiple levels, but the best, most individualized tactics are helpful to turn existing customers into loyal brand advocates. 

People put a high value on personalization. In a recent study, McKinsey says 71% of consumers expect personalization, and 78% are more likely to repurchase from companies that personalize. However, only 34% of consumers actually feel that marketing is personalized to them. There’s an opportunity to best your opponents by outsmarting them at the personalization game. 

E-commerce businesses all essentially have access to the same tools. Social media networks, email software, and search engine advertising platforms offer the same abilities across the playing field. You have the same tools as your competitors. That means you need to be smarter and create a better digital strategy to continue to win your customers’ business. 

Personalization Framework: 5 Questions to Ask 

To craft a truly personalized digital and social strategy, you have to dig deeper than the targeting capabilities of your ad platform allow. While privacy is still a concern for many consumers, people are still generally happy to give away their information as long as they feel they are getting value for it. In your case, this value is a better ad experience that aligns with what they need, when they need it. 

The research, data, and expertise that goes into crafting strategies needs to center around your audience.  To start personalizing, or to make your current efforts more accurate, interrogate yourself. Collect zero- and first-party data directly from your consumers. Then analyze that data, and ask yourself the following questions to deeply understand how you can reach your audience at a personal level. 

1. Who are you speaking to? 

To start, identify who you are speaking to. This goes beyond defining a persona. For a truly personalized strategy, you need to really profile each person using every scrap of data you have available.. Leverage individual characteristics, values, pain points, and interests. First-party data that the customer has provided, zero-party data from loyalty programs, and website data that shows how they engage with your site can paint a picture of who this person is and why they like your brand.

Watch out for a common pitfall here: It’s so easy to project yourself (or your own perception of the ideal customer) onto the audience you actually need to reach. Let the data do the work, so you can understand your customers at a granular level. 

Zero-party data from surveys can help you understand who your customer is. Are they specifically engaging with your sustainability page? Did they indicate they want orders shipped in fewer boxes to lessen the environmental impact? 

Signs point to an environmentally conscious person, who considers their impact on the planet. Now, you can use this data to begin a personalized strategy just for them.

2. What matters to them? 

The next step of personalization is to distill what matters to this person, and why you are speaking to them. Essentially, this means understanding your value in how it relates to each consumer. 

For instance: Are you selling SUVs? Maybe the towing capacity and off-road ability rival even the burliest pickup trucks. While that’s an exciting feature and makes a nice industry headline, if your data shows your consumer is more interested in convenience for their young, growing family, don’t send them an email that says “Drive out of your comfort zone.” That might work for an outdoor adventure-focused segment, but not this one. Instead, send personalized emails to them that focus on safety ratings and premium features like a hands-free tailgate.

Turn Existing Customers into Fiercely Loyal Customers with Personalized Advertising

3. How are you speaking to them?

It’s important to know that each of the questions you just answered about who you are speaking to and why will vary across all the different platforms involved in your omni-channel strategy. The methods of delivery, messaging, and creative assets all need to be tailored as part of your personalization strategy.

First-party data enables you to personalize your emails or SMS messages with your customer’s name. You can also use birth dates to send a VIP offer. If your e-commerce brand focuses on pet products, address communications directly to a customer’s dog or cat. Customers care about being treated like a person, not just a credit card holder. You can show them you value their patronage by customizing your advertising strategy to their preferences.

4. When are you speaking to them? 

Timing is everything. The buy cycle needs to dictate the advertisements your audience receives. From the first steps of creating awareness to the continuing goal of creating loyal brand advocates, a full-funnel strategy needs to be carefully calibrated to target your audience with appropriate messaging. 

For example: Targeting repeat purchasers with coupon codes intended only for first-time customers is frustrating — your brand loyalists now see a discount that’s invalid for them. Don’t fall into that trap. Be extra diligent about targeting your ads properly throughout the buy-cycle, by drawing upon all the data you have available, like offline conversion tracking.  

5. How are you measuring? 

With your strategy in mind, you need to have a strong plan of how and what you are measuring, and then what you are doing with that data to make the best use of it. 

This looks like using a mixed attribution model to determine the best use of your ad spend, collecting first- and zero-party data to deeply understand your customers throughout the buying cycle, and using third-party data to support your inferences and make informed assumptions where there are gaps. 

It also means sharing your data. No, not with your competitors or audience. Share data internally so your departments can eliminate silos and get on the same page. In a crowded market, the best way to defend your market share is with a strong offense. And a cohesive, personalized omni-channel strategy that makes consumers feel like a person and not a data point is the best offense.  

Talk to everyone…and you are really talking to no one.

Don’t be the company that shouts into the void. Without personalization, you’re wasting ad dollars. People are smart and demanding of the organizations advertising to them. Sloppy, poorly timed ads and overly generic emails leave audiences irritated. 

Social and digital advertising is already a sophisticated effort. It’s a numbers game and a creative pursuit. At the center of the Venn diagram is personalization. Leveraging data and creativity to customize advertising to consumers across platforms in each stage of the buying journey is crucial to build e-commerce brand awareness and affinity.

About the author: Jeff is an analytical and creative Digital Strategist with 9+ years of Social Media, Influencer and Content Marketing experience with various brands like Jaguar, Land Rover, Lenovo, Motorola, Ulta Beauty, Malin & Goetz, Teleflora, b New York and Raaka Chocolate – to name a few. He started his career as a copywriter, penning copy for an online sports company where he found his work featured on the back covers of national publications and featured on ESPN Radio. He currently resides in Seattle where he likes to spend as much time outside as possible with his wife and three kids, one of which is a dog.

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