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Overcoming the Common Pitfalls of Personalisation


If there’s a prime time to start the personalisation strategy for marketers it’s now. But while there’s an increasing number of resources and tools, offering more advanced capabilities than ever before, marketers are more prone to falling into the common pitfalls. Here’s four common lessons learnt, and strategies to overcome and prevent each pitfall.

1. Don’t jump in the deep end before you’ve learnt how to float.

As marketers, we love talking about the latest trends and newly improved tools, but it’s so easy to jump on the hype, without setting up the right foundations first.

And while having an open mind and ‘testing culture’ is undoubtedly important, there’s a smart and not so smart way of doing things. In this case, there’s a difference between having an objective or hypothesis to test versus going in blind sighted.

2. Be Resourceful and Lean: Leverage Existing Data

Marketers have a common misconception that extensive resources and data are a prerequisite prior to embracing personalisation. But brands often have the capability to reverse engineer and leverage their existing resources, which saves on time and effort.

“A “167-degree view” of the customer that enables the activation of a few prioritized consumer use cases is better than a long quest for a 360-degree view of the same customer.” ~ Julien Boudet & Kai Vollhardt, Mckinsey

Most brands can start the personalisation process by conducting inductive research that can arise from existing basic data sets such as transaction history and demographic information, which can also be gathered through A/B testing.

In his presentation at the 2018 ADMA Global Forum, Marcus Marchant mentions, in the case of Coles and Woolworths, leveraging transaction data, enables the brand to personalise cross-selling opportunities and integrate their customer loyalty rewards program.

3. Too much of a good thing

We can easily fall into the trap of collecting too much data without integrating the right processes to use it wisely.

Much like a start-up, an agile, cross functional approach needs to be adopted, whereby cultivating an iterative and experimentative culture can be the X factor, needed to drive growth. This arises from the common pitfall marketers fall into, being the lack of integrating rigorous process to hypothesise, test, and validate personalisation strategies. But this doesn’t mean merely running an agile project once, instead, it’s a sustained and conscious effort to shift the culture of your marketing team.

4. Context is Everything

Brands sometimes fail to understand the importance of communicating the right message at the right time across the right channel. There is sometimes a wide gap between what customers want and what brands think they want.

Example 1

A utility company advertised its services a few months after their customers’ recent purchase of a new home. Reasonable human judgement would identify that the average consumer would purchase such services prior to moving into a new home.

Example 2

For a clothing e-commerce site, a form of personalisation can be seen by providing relevant recommendations based off the customer’s transaction history. In the case of one brand, when customers bought a cocktail dress, it would be a reasonable assumption that the customer would be attending an upcoming function. This enabled a retargeting campaign opportunity which the brand used to upsell other complementary items predictive of their potential purchase additions.

Example 3

Retargeting opportunities can also be seen for an online gift retailer, whereby, a customer’s purchase of a birthday gift in one year, would provide an opportunity to market birthday oriented campaigns around the same time in the following year.

The Takeaway

Businesses should take the time, to understand the context behind a customer’s motivation, their behaviour and purchasing patterns, something data alone fails to provide.

Liad Agmon CEO Dynamic Yield, “Organizations have shifted their focus to maximizing the potential of existing customers, and personalization is one of the most cost-effective and ROI-driving strategies.”


The bottom line is that personalising your customer’s buying journey, is an element of a bigger pie – building a long-lasting relationship with each of your customers. And like any relationship, we mustn’t underestimate the hard work, time and patience needed for it to work effectively. It’s not a ‘hack’ or ‘tactic’, rather, it’s an ongoing strategy, where if done well, can reap immense benefits.