The 5 Levels of the Path to Personalization

Targeting customers along their mobile path to purchase regularly involves various approaches and attempts at personalization.

The analysis and use of data to create better engagement is a common approach, as mentioned multiple times during the MediaPost IoT: Advertising at Internet Week conference earlier this week.

I recently came across a quite interesting and insightful viewpoint about the evolution of the path to personalization with a set of discrete steps.

There are five levels in the path to personalization, according to Lucinda Duncalfe, president and CEO of Monetate, a company whose technology is used to create campaigns by integrating disparate pieces of customer information on-the-fly. Retailers using the platform include Macy’s, Best Buy, QVC and Dick’s Sporting Goods, among others.

To gain some additional perspective on these market phases, I recently sat down with Duncalfe to discuss the details of the five levels of personalization.



“The five steps are a combination of what we’re seeing in the market and our customer advisory reports about the thinking of where it’s going,” said Duncalfe. Here are the five levels in the path to personalization:

  • Level 1: Test. Web, email, mobile optimization.
  • Level 2: Target. In-session and contextual behavior
  • Level3: Segment. Leveraging first and third party data
  • Level 4: Synchronize. Multi-device customer journeys integrated across channels
  • Level 5: Auto-optimization, continuous learning. One-to-one.

“Where we are today is Level One, which is just the standard best practice,” said Duncalfe. “The problem with it is you have the tyranny of the average, which doesn’t work.

"For example, if you and I both go to a site, we have completely different goals than all the rest. And yet, they’re going to take the averages of the two of us so none of us are happy. It would have been better optimizing for you or for me, because then you satisfy at least half of us.

“The shift to the third level, where you’re understanding who that customer really is, that’s really critical. It means bringing together data from more than one place.

“Where we are now with mobile is that people are using more basic data, like I’m on an iPhone and you’re on a Samsung Galaxy, or whatever, to use as ways to know what to show you, how to personalize it.

“What you’re starting to see over time is the synchronicity. So now, mobile becomes critical.”

The most intriguing aspect of the five levels to me is the last one, in many ways which is the promise of the Internet of Things.

In one of Duncalfe’s examples, a person was on a train and then coming out of a subway and on the way up, the retailer could know the consumer usually gets off the train and walks down Seventh Avenue.

“The idea is to create an experience that gets ahead of that,” said Duncalfe.

“You know geolocation just from the phone but then the store knows you walked in because there’s an iBeacon in the store.”

In this fifth level, technology would be used to anticipate customer needs, in advance of the customer.

“Everything is going to be different,” said Duncalfe. “

"We’re so early that people don’t see it yet. We are at a revolution again that is as big as the Internet was.”

On to Level 5!





2 comments about "The 5 Levels of the Path to Personalization".
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  1. David Mountain from Marketing and Advertising Direction, May 22, 2015 at 12:47 p.m.

    If this all leads to a world where advertising is safe, legal and rare, and prospects always pay attention to what the receive, and never get anything that isn't relevant...

    Well, wait a minute! I was promised a future dystopia in every movie with ads in it! No fair!

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, May 22, 2015 at 1:55 p.m.

    Some of the smarter marketers totally get this and are focusing on engagement beyond targeted one-shot ads, David. Others, well...

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