Decoding personalisation complexity

Columbia Road
4 min readSep 12, 2023


So personalisation, it could be anything, right?

For marketing, personalisation is personalised messages in the right channels at the right time. For ecommerce managers, it means personalised product recommendations. For anyone working with customer loyalty, it would be personalised loyalty program benefits. And for most, it’s a monogrammed wallet or a coffee mug with your grandma’s face on it.

If you are anything like a normal human being, the complexity of it all might be so overwhelming that you just can’t wrap your head around it.

To overcome the overwhelm, let’s split personalisation into smaller chunks. This is always a good idea with anything you want to be better at, be it a massive software project or getting your golf swing just right.

So, back to personalisation, to break it down, let’s use Gartner’s way of categorising personalisation based on use cases: marketing, digital commerce, and service and support.

Personalisation in marketing

For marketing, personalisation means delivering the right message to the right audience in the right context to maximise marketing and advertising performance.

In practice, here are some examples of personalisation in the context of marketing:

1. Tailored email campaigns:

An online fashion retailer sends personalised email recommendations to customers based on their browsing history and past purchases, increasing the likelihood of conversions.

2. Location-based offers

A coffee chain sends push notifications to customers’ mobile devices with special offers when they are near one of their physical stores.

3. Time-triggered offers

A bakery sends an email with a morning discount on freshly baked goods to customers who have previously made morning purchases, creating a sense of urgency and delight.

4. Dynamic website content

A visitor interested in vegan recipes visits a food blog and finds the homepage displaying a curated list of popular vegan recipes, based on their past browsing history on the site.

Personalisation in digital commerce

In ecommerce and digital commerce, personalisation means opportunities to tailor content, offers, recommendations and experiences across digital sales channels.

Lets look at some examples of personalisation in the context of digital commerce.

1. Customised recommendations

A user browsing an e-commerce website receives suggestions for wireless headphones, based on their recent purchase of a smartphone.

2. Early shopper persona

An online fashion retailer invites new customers to complete a quick style quiz upon signing up. Using their responses, the retailer suggests a curated selection of products that match their unique style preferences, getting their shopping journey off to a personalised start.

3. One-click checkout

An online grocery store remembers a customer’s preferred delivery time and payment method, offering a streamlined checkout process during their next purchase.

4. Product bundles

An electronics retailer suggests complementary products or accessories when customers add a specific item to their cart, encouraging higher-value purchases.

5. Size and fit recommendations

An online clothing store provides size and fit recommendations based on customers’ body measurements and past purchases, reducing the likelihood of returns.

6. Loyalty point integration

An online grocery delivery service integrates loyalty program points directly into the checkout process, allowing customers to redeem points for discounts.

Personalisation in service and support

Post-purchase, personalisation can mean using customer insight, journey context and user feedback to customise online and offline experiences across business functions to reduce customer effort or increase customer satisfaction and advocacy.

Finally, here are some examples of personalisation in service and support.

1. Customised recommendations

A customer contacts an e-commerce company’s customer support to inquire about purchasing a skincare product. The representative reviews the customer’s purchase history and preferences and recommends products tailored to their needs.

2. Proactive outreach

An airline’s customer support team notices that a customer’s flight is delayed due to weather. They proactively send a personalised message with alternative flight options and accommodations, minimising the inconvenience.

3. Preferred contact channels

A bank’s customer support remembers that a specific customer prefers communicating via chat. Whenever the customer contacts support, they are directed to a chat representative to ensure a seamless experience.

4. Replenishment Reminders

An online pet supply store sends reminders to customers to reorder pet food or supplies based on their past purchase frequency.

Create holistic personalised customer experiences

Personalisation can mean a variety of things in different parts of the customer journey from acquisition to loyalty. One of the keys to good personalisation is ensuring that the customer feels special — not only in one touchpoint but across the entire customer journey. As stated in one of my previous articles, way too often the messages of “You’re so special!” in marketing is followed by “Who were you again?” customer support.

Still, splitting the personalisation into three different contexts will help you to understand where your organisation is today and what you should do next in order to climb the ladder of personalisation — and by succeeding in it — also your career as someone who can ‘make it rain’ so to speak. By starting somewhere, you’ll eventually be able to master personalisation at a large scope.

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