Getting Beyond The Personalization Buzzword

Far too I often I hear the buzzword, personalization, thrown around by solution vendors and I have to ask myself, “Do they really know what it means?”  Do these people understand that personalization is not re-targeting, that these words can not and should not be used interchangeably?  This issue has been weighing on my mind for some time so I thought I would explain the key differences as I see them.  Basically, targeting is about marketer needs and personalization is about consumer needs. Both techniques can increase revenue but they come at it from different angles.

As our VP of Product Dan Darnell wrote in a recent blog post, Targeting versus Personalization Explained:

With targeting, marketers and merchandisers take insight from their experiences and attempt to show relevant offers, content and products to visitors by using a variety of techniques, with the most common involving segments and rules.

Most marketers have a few buckets that they group customers into and this is as much for the marketer as anything else – new visitors versus loyal shoppers, soccer moms versus football dads, etc. The marketers believe that these groups buy different stuff or react to different content or promotions. In addition, these segments make sense to the marketers and help them organize their thoughts and content around key groups. For example, a marketer wants to provide an incentive for first time shoppers to come back again. So, they setup promotions to target visitors in this segment. This is a great strategy. It allows the marketer or merchant to control what the visitor sees and hopefully allows them to optimize based on business needs.


Unlike targeting, personalization focuses on consumer needs. What offers, content or products will a particular visitor find most relevant based on their current needs. To create a relevant, personal experience for each visitor, a personalization engine soaks in all kinds of information about the visitor – where did they come from, where are they located now, where do they live, what did they search on, what page are they looking at right now, what have they bought before, what segments are they a member of, etc. All this information combined with powerful machine learning algorithms tells a personalization engine what content or products they are most likely to be interested in right now. As the visitor moves through the site, their intent can change. At first they may be interested in a new sweater and then their interest shifts to new jeans. The personalization engine goes along with them and continuously personalizes the content and products to best meet their needs given all the data that is available. Personalization at this level is not something that a marketer or merchant can figure out ahead of time.

Hopefully this distinction makes sense. When marketers and merchants think of the offers or products they want to promote, they are thinking about targeting. When retailers let visitors drive the decision making with their data and based on their intent in real-time, they are personalizing.  To learn more about how BaynoteONE can help you drive real-time personalization click here.

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Author: Dan Saso

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein