Personalization and Discovery Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

When personalization is done well, brands benefit in myriad ways and customers get a better experience. But some marketers overuse personalization in ways that can hinder discovery. Others use greetings that sound personalized to try to mask generic communications, which can leave customers annoyed instead of open to new possibilities.

Here are three areas that need some attention.  

Creating echo chambers: Some marketers believe that “all contextually relevant personalization all the time” is the Holy Grail. As great as it is to be on the receiving end of contextually relevant messaging, overdoing personalization leaves little room for discovery.

Yes, customers generally prefer to see and received ads, communications, and offers that align with their interests. Many of them also want the aha moment of discovering something new—something they didn’t realize they had to have until they saw it. Just because I bought your bike shorts doesn’t mean I want to buy them again next week—not even in another color. I might want your yoga mat, though; that is, if you’d stop relentlessly pitching me shorts and let me know you sell mats.

Your challenge: Balancing personalization with opportunities for discovery. 

Rethinking marketing messages: Using what is clearly a blanket “Especially for you” type subject line when sending a generic marketing email is a sure way to signal to customers that you don’t really know them—or don’t care to actually personalize messages. Consider: A shoe retailer uses a “Just for you” email to announce the availability of the latest Birkenstocks to its customers, including those who typically buy high-heel strappy sandals and never buy Birkenstocks or anything like them. The response those customers will have when opening that email is likely to be, “You track what I’m buying through your loyalty program, what makes you think Birkenstocks are ‘just for me’?”

Those customers may, in fact, be interested in branching out to Birkenstocks (discovery!) and might have had a completely different response if the subject line was more like, “Give your feet the vacation they deserve.” They’re likely to feel understood (their feet could use a break from high heels) and they gain the benefit of seeing something new with a more open mind.

Your challenge: Creating mass-personalized content that feels one-to-one.

Switching it up: People’s tastes change, their preferences change, their lifestyle may change. If you keep trying to sell them more of the same thing, marketed to them the same way, without also helping them discover the next new thing they might want to try—even if it doesn’t seem to match their customer profile—they might just get fatigued with your “sameness” and move on. This is more than following natural progressions (a customer purchased baby clothes, so next will need toddler clothes, etc.); it’s adjacencies that might not be as obvious. 

Here’s where moving beyond existing customer data can be useful. Getting creative with marketing might require a CDP to pull in data from more places; it might require rethinking how you gather insights from social media and online customer communities. 

Your challenge: Using what you know about your customers to facilitate discovery while avoiding pitches for things that definitely wouldn’t make sense.

Marketers who want customers to feel valued and understood need to stop marketing on repeat. Instead, they should use personalization not only to deliver obviously relevant communications, but also to facilitate discovery. By doing so, they’ll also be helping their customers discover more reasons to buy more from and stay loyal to their brand.

This article originally appeared on MKTGinsight.