Data and Technology

The Definitive Guide to Data Personalization: How to Build a Customer-Centric Brand

When data personalization arrived on the martech scene, it changed marketing forever. Campaigns no longer need to be built from inferences and reams of marketing statistics alone. Now, the customer captains the strategy ship.

Customer-centric strategies are now a prerequisite for engaging marketing, and data personalization is the path to get there.

But how do marketers translate that theory into reality? Learn the what, why, and how behind data personalization and set yourself up for success in all the campaigns to come.

  1. Introduction
  2. What is Data Personalization?
  3. Why is Data Personalization Important?
  4. Step 1 to Data Personalization: Data Best-Practices
  5. Step 2 to Data Personalization: Prioritize the Customer Experience
  6. Step 3 to Data Personalization: Think Long-Term
  7. Conclusion

What is Data Personalization?

Data personalization creates marketing strategies governed by customer data. Rather than deploying generic communications to everyone, data personalization yields visual, individually tailored campaigns.

Personalization transforms data into a compelling visual experience. Data alone is not enough; personalized creatives are what captivate customer attention.

In data personalization, every data point matters—not just basic demographics. Each piece of data is crucial to creating the complete mosaic of each customer.

Why is Data Personalization Important?

Segmentation divides customers into buckets based on broad demographics and tailors a different send for each of those categories. Most marketers have about three segments. For example, a female customer in her mid 20s who has shopped with the brand before will receive a different communication from a male customer in his 50s who has never interacted with the brand before.

Data personalization, on the other hand, takes far more data points into account. While segmentation is a great place to start, marketers that stop there will end up relying on the same few data points in every campaign. The nuanced campaigns that 73% customers expect must cater to more specific preferences.

You’ve got the “what” and “why” down—now for the challenging piece, the how. While there’s a lot of moving parts for data personalization, it comes down to three steps: obtaining high-quality data, prioritizing the customer experience, and strategizing long-term.

Step 1 to Data Personalization: Data Best-Practices

Maximizing the impact of personalization requires optimized data practices. With gold-standard data, you’ll be well on your way to customer-centric campaigns.

Data is Better Together

Data silos are an obstacle for virtually every digital marketer. When data is trapped in different sources, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces separated in different, mismatched boxes. Every box results in a frustrating partial picture that doesn’t tell you much of anything. The logical fix is combining all the matching pieces to uncover the full story.

For a holistic view of your customer, all their data must be in one accessible place. Otherwise, it’ll become a challenge for marketers to truly understand customers in the way they strive to.

Here are three best-practices to avoid data silos:

  • Visibility
    • Everyone needs to be on the same page with where data goes, how it’s measured, and how it’s documented. If everyone has eyes on the same data and is working together, it’ll increase accuracy and consistency in both your reporting and marketing strategy.
  • Integration
    • It’s not just the team that needs to be on the same wavelength—your systems must be synchronized too. Whether it’s an ETL tool, a cloud-based warehouse, or opting for systems that make integration seamless, creating a unified online system is key.
  • Centralization
    • Having countless copies of the same data set wastes storage space and IT time. Similarly, having a crucial set of data hidden in one system takes time and resources to unearth. All tech needs to be synchronized with a designated team to own data care and protection.

Opt for High-Quality Data

Zero- and first-party data always take the cake. With unparalleled accuracy and relevance, these data sets have the potential to power campaigns that delight customers like no other.

If you’re relying on third-party data or other less accurate sources, you’ll never know the full power of data personalization. To truly commit to a personalized marketing way of life, brands must use the most accurate data they can.

Zero-party data is the information customers voluntarily give to brands in exchange for a better marketing experience. To start collecting this data, brands can use tailored form-fills, polls and questionnaires, preference center choices, and social media interactions.

First-party data is what brands know about a customer through their direct interactions with the company. Most brands already have this data incoming everyday. The best places to locate it are in behavioral data from your website or app, marketing communications, and CRMs.

Documentation: Attribution and Research

The validity of data personalization is in the data. So why is it often underestimated?

Some see data personalization as just a pain-point solution to give your KPIs a quick boost. But when approached correctly, data personalization is at the heart of a truly customer-centric approach and has the power to boost long-term revenue and engagement. How can marketers achieve this? Through optimized attribution and research.


Even if your data personalization efforts are bringing in customers and revenue, it’s challenging to recognize its value without attribution. But with the right tracking, marketers can see up to a 30% increase in overall efficiency gains.

For accurate attribution, brands need to stay close to their customer data. From milestones to incremental data, every data point is worth considering. Once that data is cleaned up and organized, define the key benchmarks your team should hold on to. With these best-practices for unifying data, you’ll be well on your way to powerful attribution and reporting that informs retargeting with expertise.


Data personalization in all forms is incredibly powerful, but brands need to evaluate their specific needs.

Take retail brands. Here, personalized product recommendations are an engaging way to tailor marketing communications.

On the other hand, think of a software company. Often, you have a smaller number or products, so personalized will peter out pretty quickly. Instead, focus on content personalization in marketing communications to score a better investment.

The same goes for platforms. If social media is your most active platform, that’s the data set you can prioritize when forming campaigns. If the majority of your customers are coming from your website instead, focus on your first-party behavioral data.

Step 2 to Data Personalization: Prioritize the Customer Experience

If data is the tool, a delightful customer experience (CX) is what you’re trying to build. Once you’ve got your data in tip-top shape, it’s time to brainstorm how to optimize your CX.

Good CX Looks Good

Relevant data is necessary, but insufficient. To truly engage customers, transform their experience into a moving masterpiece.

In this mobile example by Inkredible Gaming, accurate numbers are given new life with stunning visuals. Here, leaderboard numbers become a visual bar graph for quick comprehension within the push notification. From the vibrant purple hues to the fun avatars representing top players, this is one push notification that’ll immediately catch customers’ eyes.

Mockup of a rich mobile push notification, depicting a data visualization bar graph.

A Customer-Centric Experience For the Win.

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Self-Service Is a Double Win

One of the best ways to personalize CX is letting customers do it themselves. And as an added bonus, the more self-service customers are, the easier the lift for your own team, allowing them to focus on serving bigger challenges.

Preference centers are one of the best ways to put this into practice. Here, customers can customize their own experience. All the brand needs to do is set the software’s rules and responses beforehand, creating a “set it and forget it” approach.

Sourcing customer opinion is another best practice. From adjusting your FAQs based on customer needs to deploying campaigns that gather zero-party data, listening to customers is a key way to improve CX.

Show Real Relevance

There’s nothing quite like campaigns that serve your in-the-moment needs. Data personalization doesn’t only rely on responding to current customer data. With the right strategy you can make the first move.

Personalized email mockup displaying recent-time weather and a QR code.

In this email, baseball fans know exactly what to expect come gameday. Inkredible Sports alerts the customer, Gwen, of an upcoming game in her area. The predicted weather is included so she plans accordingly. To help her make the most out of her loyalty status, a quick how-to guide tells her next steps for planning a smooth day at the stadium. Gwen’s personalized QR code finishes the email off.

With a perfect blend of customer and recent-time data, Gwen is left with a first-class customer experience.

Create a CX on Every Platform

Customers want the ease of interacting with a brand at the time they want and on the platform they prefer. In fact, nearly 70% of customers are even willing to pay top dollar for an optimal customer experience with multiple touchpoints. The answer to these customer needs lies in omni-channel marketing: the practice of telling your brand story across all touchpoints, with each strategically supporting one another.

Mockup of what a brand communication looks like on a browser, email, push notification, and in-app message.

Data personalization has incredible potential, but its power can only be unleashed if customers actually see and engage with the content. Bring personalization to every platform and use every touchpoint as an opportunity to reinforce your brand value through tailored communications. No matter what device your customer prefers, ensure that the CX is equally sophisticated.

Mockup of an email with a personalized offer embedded in a QR code.

An omni-channel approach goes beyond digital. In this email, Inkredible Eatery includes a free-drink promotion embedded in a QR code that a customer can redeem at the nearest location. Here, data drives foot-traffic for a seamless CX every step of the way.

Step 3 to Data Personalization: Think Long-Term

It’s been established that data personalization is far more than a quick, short-term win. But what practices can marketers implement to set up their data personalization for long-term success? Here are three tips to get you started:

Data collection is a cycle, not a one-and-done solution

  • Data collection practices are key, but marketers would be wise to set this up as a cycle rather than a one-time reach out.
  • While some data rarely or never changes—think of basic demographics such as name, gender, or even location—most customer data is in constant flux. Marketers must constantly source fresh data to keep their campaigns relevant.

Addressing culture

  • A team needs to have the same mission and initiatives to reach their full potential. Data personalization is a perfect example of where teams can diverge; if half the team sees personalization as a long-term solution while the other half sees it as a quick pain-point reliever, strategies will suffer.
  • Guide everyone into understanding the brand vision and continually reinforce it in meetings big and small, from town halls to 1:1 meetings.

Choose the right tools and partners

  • The right tools paired with powerful partners can transform nuanced personalization from a dream into reality. Here are some of our favorites:

Adopt AI Powered Personalization


Data personalization has revolutionized marketing, and when it’s optimized to its fullest potential, it has the power to engage customers like never before.