FIU Business Now Magazine
Personalization: Brands 1:1 With Customers

Personalization: Brands 1:1 With Customers

By Cynthia Corzo

“Hello [first name] [last name]” doesn’t do it anymore.

Today, personalization is key, tailoring brand messages to customers’ wants and needs. Customized, impactful and engaging, these messages boost the brand-buyer relationship, increase loyalty and keep marketing messages relevant.

“The brand is taking the time to contextually understand who the customer is and what they’re looking for, and showing them exactly that as a person,” said Fallon Chattaway (MSM ’20), senior marketing manager at Accenture. “You’re not talking about yourself – not ‘our product is the best, it’s the cheapest, we won an award.’”

Achieving that one-to-one interaction, she added, requires brands to add a dose of empathy to the relationship, showing the customer that the brand cares and is by their side if they’re having a problem, also to highlight the brand’s dynamic impact on the region the customer is in.

“We need to give them a reason to buy according to what they need,” Chattaway said. “The campaign must focus on solution-based content determined by what people are looking for, using engagement data to show them their audience and how your brand can help them solve the problem together.”

The days of generic one-size-fits-all marketing are long gone. Advances in technology, data and analytics now allow brands to make deeper connections with customers, helping them make better purchasing decisions and address individual pain points along the way.

“In today’s digital world, personalization helps marketers make data-driven decisions to customize their content marketing plan based on meeting each customer’s needs,” said Ashton Elder, (MSM ’22), digital marketing manager at MDM Commercial. “Most are microtargeting segments based on the product and where they are on the buyer’s journey.”

Where You Are and What You Need

Today, a majority of consumers expect a personalized journey. As a result, marketers and brands often tie personalization to the customer life cycle, the moment in time when you may be going on vacation, want to order food, or are even thinking about marriage.

“In the last three years, since [the start of] COVID-19, the number one thing consumers want is convenience,” said Lemay Sanchez 17(BBA ’08), CEO of Boxie, which produces smart lockers for sorting and managing food delivery orders. “That leads to making marketing efforts and messages from a supplier as unique as possible to what they want.”

If based on someone’s internet searches or clicks on Instagram ads the marketer concludes that a person seems to be preparing for a vacation to Europe, and says ‘let’s market to her; she may be more receptive or responsive to emails or offers.’

“The phone isn’t listening to your conversations,” said Sanchez, noting that online activity is picked up by algorithms. “It’s something as simple as going to Google; when you search, that cookie remains a story.”

In the case of Boxie, Sanchez focuses a personalized campaign on satisfying customers’ desire for on-demand service - getting in and out of a restaurant quickly with their food in hand.

“Our target is customers’ private, personal space; they see their names outside the box, and it becomes theirs even if it’s for five minutes,” said Sanchez, who launched Boxie in 2020. “The message is that your food is safe and stored away from anyone touching it.”

One of the areas where personalization is increasingly successful is in omnichannel marketing, which focuses on continued communication, noted Gregory Maloney, associate teaching professor of marketing and logistics at FIU Business.

“It’s different from traditional marketing outreach that would tailor messages to the specific retail channel,” said Maloney. “Previously, companies viewed the experience from the business’ perspective. Now they are designing marketing campaigns with the consumer at the center of the experience.”

How Do They Know That?

Netflix is recognized as the first company to deliver a high level of personalization in media entertainment through data science. Amazon uses a recommendation-engine algorithm called ‘item-to-item collaborative filtering’ to suggest products based on key data points.

“Data is sort of the new gold,” said Elder. “Every single marketing campaign and my ability to optimize any campaign rely more on data and customer data.”

Ha Ta, assistant professor of marketing and logistics at FIU Business, pointed out that artificial intelligence-powered marketing strategy has become critical in the space. Marketers can use the insight from these applications for product innovation, sales forecasting, customer identification and pricing, as well as location selection and even delivery routes, she said.

In March 2022 Barilla launched the Playlist Timer on Spotify. The eight music playlists function as kitchen timers, curated to accompany home chefs for the exact duration of the minutes required to cook perfect al dente pasta. It’s simple: Buy your favorite pasta, download Spotify, create an account, follow the Barilla Italia account, and select the playlist based on the pasta you purchased.

To gather the data, marketers can write a code, feed a machine with real-time data so then it builds its own logical function based on this data, learn from it, and finally create insights that will not only increase customer satisfaction, but also lifetime value of the brand-customer relationship, explained Gustavo Mosquera, assistant teaching professor of marketing and logistics at FIU Business.

He noted Target’s Pregnancy Predictor score, where the company identified a correlation between pregnancy and a specific purchasing pattern that includes buying unscented lotions and cotton balls. After someone falls into this pattern, the retailer can adjust their communication efforts, including sending coupons and catalogs, to persuade the customer to purchase certain products.

“It's like being able to predict which slot machine in a casino is more likely to hit the jackpot,” Mosquera said. “You minimize costs and increase the likelihood of success.” A current example is TikTok’s algorithm, which the company says predicts users’ preferences by monitoring four signals – what you watch, share, like and follow – to determine what you might want to watch next. Data gathering also raises questions of privacy.

“While many people say that they don’t want a large organization to know their personal details, they still share vast quantities of data every time they use social media, digital maps, online searches, and electronic purchases,” said Anthony Miyazaki, professor of marketing and logistics at FIU Business. “Companies not only know what you want or need the most, but also the best ways to get you to buy what they want to sell to you.”

The Next Chapter

Some insiders don’t foresee drastic changes in omnichannel marketing and personalization in the next few years, but it will open the door for new players to take a larger share of established industries.

“While companies are recognizing it works, some don’t understand how to do it correctly and will spend several years trying to figure it out,” said Maloney.

Some leading companies that aren’t personalizing marketing or active in omnichannel outreach could face drastic swings.

“It leaves the door open for innovators to come in and mix things up,” Maloney said. “They can take the fickle consumer and quickly draw their loyalties away from an established brand.”

Miyazaki, however, forecasts that marketing will reach an unprecedented level of uber-personalization.

“In the next five years we’ll get to a point where our own relatives may opt-in to a social media platform that will allow a company to use their likeness in an ad that targets us,” he said. “Those messages are going to sway us more than others. That’s going to drastically change advertising.”