Personalization on a Spectrum

Published On: March 16th, 20215 min read

As a marketer maybe I pay a little more attention to how brands are reaching their customers. However, you don’t need a marketing background to take notice of those who get it, those who are trying, and then those sometimes cringe-worthy moments where they totally missed the mark. But hey, it happens, and it’s not my intent to put those who have had a misfire or two on blast. And at the end of the day, marketing is part experimentation to find out what works and what doesn’t, as long as we learn from those we should all be OK.

But for the purpose of today’s topic, let’s talk about personalization. There are endless studies and stats that prove personalization drives revenue. It’s a way to really engage your customers to provide recommendations that they like and purchase. Everyone wins. I have come to think of some of my preferred retailers as personal shoppers. They know me well enough to make recommendations that I barely think twice about buying. Note: That may also be a personal problem as I can be a bit of an impulse buyer (BUT I BET THEY ALREADY KNOW THAT ABOUT ME).

Different Shapes and Sizes

To break it down, personalization comes in all shapes and sizes. You have brands and retailers that do it so well it almost makes me angry (maybe it’s awe) and then you have some that are just starting out. The point being, there are levels — we all need to start somewhere. And if you haven’t started already, you should really get on that. Because the fact is, consumers are overwhelmed with choice and it’s now easier than ever to go elsewhere for a number of reasons, including but not limited to, price, availability, and the gold standard, the overall customer experience.

Understanding where you are in the personalization spectrum is half the battle.

One commonly accepted way to look at is as follows (and I have added in my personal translation for fun):

Levels of Personalization:

  • Rules-Based
  • Segmentation
  • Predictive
  • Prescriptive
  • Cognitive


  • Rules: Great, you know my name and you push things my way on a regular schedule (daily, weekly, monthly).
  • Segmented: I’ve fallen into one of your categories e.g the crazy dog lady and you send me all things dogs
  • Predictive: You know I’ve been eyeing said pair of shoes and now they are everywhere I go/look and now I’m offered a discount code to get me to pull out my credit card to purchase.
  • Prescriptive: you know that I bought a pair of shoes one time, and you have come to learn that others who have bought the same pair of shoes also bought a blanket scarf. (I don’t know why, but they just do)

Again, as a marketer, maybe I pay a little closer attention to these things, so much so that when another marketer gets my personalization right, I’ll post about it on my own social channels. Let me share with you a few examples across the spectrum.

Combination of Rules & Prescriptive

A favorite retailer — J. Crew: You send me very regular emails but also know I’ve been eyeing yet another leopard print frock (after all, animal print is the new neutral). But I waited too long and they were out of my size. You alert me of a re-stock and this time around, I don’t wait because now I have something new for Animal Print Friday (it’s a thing)!

Predictive & Prescriptive

Amazon: One that made me laugh so hard, was highly accurate, well-timed, and again made me snort. I already segmented myself into the crazy dog lady category and that was not a mistake. It was around Halloween and I was searching for costumes for my dog. And this recommendation brought me so much joy. Nailed it, Amazon. If only it came in an XL for my barrel-chested dog. Ultimately, I went with the taco costume. Another solid recommendation.

DMI - Predictive & Prescriptive

Segmented or maybe highly Cognitive?!

One I still can’t figure out was either a total miss or a situation where they know me better than I know myself. Thank you, Etsy. My first reaction was one of confusion, but then…you know what? I would get a lot of joy sending my friends and family a vase with my face on it for fun. GET OUT OF MY HEAD.

DMI - Segmented & Cognitive

No Personalization

A miss. I have removed the names from this one because I’m not here to call someone out. You sent me an email to talk about marketing automation, you have my email but you have my company name wrong and we are actually already a partner. Cringe. This likely is a data issue, bad data leads to bad outputs. Ultimately, this could negatively impact the customer experience or brand perception. 

DMI - No Personalization

At DMI Experience Group, we help businesses see beyond obstacles to uncover what’s possible. Our digital marketing team identifies the appropriate channels and moments to engage with your customers in a highly meaningful way. We provide strategy, media, creative, and technology services in order to create the right experience that drives results for your business.

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