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The internet is getting smarter and our data is being used in ways that perhaps we didn’t even think possible. This is great news for marketers, but less so for the more privacy-conscious consumer. There’s no doubt that when personalisation is executed well it can be an excellent way to improve the customer experience, but mess it up and your warm prospects can end up being hounded and turned off to your brand. We’ll be the first to admit that as a company we are fairly new to testing our personalisation and our research into the subject has certainly thrown up a few examples of how to be a help and not a hindrance. Because no one wants to be the creepy uncle at the (online) party...

Retargeting ads, easy to set up - tricky to get right

If you shop online, you’ve probably seen retargeting ads for a product you viewed. There’s plenty of opportunity for this to work well, with well-timed discount codes and ads that provide sales copy to combat any potential purchase barriers that have caused a buyer to bounce from the page. Get it wrong and you risk getting on the nerves of your browser, creepily popping up at every opportunity. 

Picture the scene. You’ve been browsing for presents online and then are suddenly bombarded with ads directed towards a male, snow-loving ski enthusiast when actually you’re a woman who seeks the sunshine. And don’t get us started on ads that target you as soon as you reach a certain age milestone - baby brands we are looking at you! Despite the perceived benefits, a recent Kantar survey found over half of consumers (54%) object to being targeted based on their previous online activity - so there’s certainly an argument to think carefully before creating these ads and waiting at least 24 hours before releasing a retargeting campaign is advised.

Source: Instagram

Spotify wraps up the gift of personalised playlists

Spotify is no doubt the Don Juan of personalisation, utilising the colossal amount of listener data at their fingertips to create targeted ad campaigns. Their hugely successful ‘Wrapped’ feature is an annual hit, providing users with a personalised round-up playlist of their most listened to songs that year. The easy sharing opens allows users to post their playlists on social channels and provides them with the added value of their favourite tunes, all in one place.

Source: Twitter

Spotify isn’t immune to crossing the line though and came under scrutiny for one 2019 ad campaign that centred on user data. With ads running copy such as, “Dear person who listened to the ‘Forever Alone’ playlist for 4 hours on Valentine’s Day, you OK?”, some might argue that seeing their self-titled playlist on a billboard might be crossing the line a little into invasive.

When basic personalisation goes wrong

Ever been addressed as ‘Dear {firstname},’? It’s enough to make you delete the email before even clicking through. A simple way to get around this dreaded faux pax is to have a fallback term to address the email to should the recipient not have shared their name in the original sign up.


E.g. ‘Dear {fallbackfirstname= Tech Wizard} or omit the ‘Dear’ and lead with {Hello} instead which works even if a name isn’t supplied.

Localised search results - it’s all in the consent

Oh, this one is handy. Gone are the days when we have to type in ‘restaurants in Wimbledon’ to find our venue for the eve. Well, the pandemic put a stop to that anyway but you know where we’re going with this. Our nifty little smartphones and devices are so tuned into our locations that they actively work to sift out the best results for our queries, depending on where we are located and what we’ve searched before. Creepy? Perhaps. Useful? Absolutely.

Adding value to a customer’s purchasing decision

Ever tried to beat the system by popping a product in your basket and then leaving the site to see whether you get an email incentivising you to return? It’s a common sales technique which can ensure that every opportunity is followed through and works both for the consumer and online business.


Another great targeted email campaign is to identify a purchase or action your customer has recently performed and then check-in to see if you can offer any related assistance or added value such as a guide to the product they’ve browsed or perhaps your new Christmas range. Something to be aware of here, however, is to always ensure subscribers to your emails are totally in control of their settings and are able to reduce or stop the emails you are sending easily. This allows you to still be a positive brand to them and they may well return when they are at a different stage of the purchase chain. 

What have we learnt from falling down the personalisation rabbit hole? First up, successful personalisation usually stems from giving your recipient or audience added value. Be that a relevant discount code, useful guide to a product or their top Taylor Swift tunes - it all adds up to a positive brand experience.

And the pitfalls to avoid? Clumsy attempts at personalisation e.g. ‘Welcome Mr <LastName>’, invasive usage of data to publicly promote a service and treading very careful at blanket assumptions around a person’s interests and life position from a small insight into their demographics. Cross the line here and trust will vanish quicker than you can say ‘Hey Google, delete my browsing history’.

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