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What Is One to One Marketing and Why Do Your Customers Crave It?

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One-to-one marketing isn’t new, but your customers are craving it now more than ever. 

With the combination of technology’s limitless potential and customers’ desire for their individual preferences to be at the forefront of messaging, why aren’t more brands implementing one-to-one marketing? 

It boils down to believing there is only a single one-to-one strategy, leading brands to apply a formula that simply doesn’t work for them. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan; marketers need to take their resources, industry, target customers, and more into account.

If you want to achieve effective one-to-one marketing, you first need to understand what it actually is, how and why it works, and what steps you need to take to activate a lasting strategy:

  1. Introduction

  2. What is One-to-One Marketing? (Definition)

  3. What's in a One-to-One Marketing Strategy?

  4. Does One-to-One Marketing Work?

  5. Starter Guide to One-to-One Marketing

  6. The Challenges of One-to-One Marketing

  7. One-to-One Marketing in Action (Examples)

  8. The Future of One-to-One Marketing

What Is One-to-One Marketing?

One-to-one marketing is an adaptable strategy that changes its approach in response to evolving preferences, emphasizing an individualized experience for every customer.

Chances are, you’ve experienced this method first-hand. Think of your local coffee shop and the barista that remembers your oat milk latté each time you visit. By noticing and delivering your order, the barista provides a tailored business experience. When your tastes inevitably change and the barista starts making a chai for you instead, they demonstrate the adaptability at the core of one-to-one marketing.

Seems simple enough. But what does this look like for your business, and are the results worth the effort?

What's in a One-to-One Marketing Strategy?

Strategies will vary among companies, but every true one-to-one marketing campaign has three tenants at its core: personalization, customization, and segmentation. 


  • Simply put, personalization is marketing guided by data. When a brand builds their marketing content around relevant, accurate customer data, personalization is born.

  • It’s featured in martech’s most sophisticated strategies, and for good reason: 80% of customers are more likely to buy from brands that offer personalized experiences. 

  • Personalization is a necessary component of one-to-one marketing. It’s the tool brands use to ensure the experience—the communications, content, device, and cadence—are tailored to the customer.


  • While often used interchangeably with personalization, customization actually refers solely to the products, not the communications, in one-to-one marketing. 

  • Take a kitchenware brand that sells one frying pan in several colors—the more colors, the broader the level of customization. The same goes for any added features, whether sold at an extra cost or free to implement. 

  • More isn’t always better when it comes to customization. If brands focus only on offering as many options as possible, rather than strategically restocking the most popular variations and phasing out others, they’ll end up with extra inventory gathering dust and wasted resources.


  • Segmentation is the practice of dividing customers based on their demographics, such as age, gender, or locale. The theory is, people with similar demographics will have aligned preferences in both content and device.

  • Virtually every marketing company uses segmentation, but that’s only a first step. The core of true one-to-one marketing is an individual connection, not a one-size-fits-all communication. Going further than traditional segmentation is a must for every brand.

So is personalization, customization, and segmentation worth the effort? The short- and long-term payoff indicates a resounding yes, no matter what your brand's individual goals may be.

Does One-to-One Marketing Work?

For 84% of customers, marketing that treats people as unique individuals is a linchpin for winning their business. But that’s not all: for nearly 70% of consumers, it’s crucial for brands to continually adjust their messaging as their customers evolve. 

It’s not enough to create an individualized campaign for each customer and call it a day. The heart of one-to-one marketing is a constant cycle of listening to customers and adjusting as their needs shift. 

When brands keep the customer at the forefront of their strategy, one-to-one marketing generates unbeatable results:

Customer Satisfaction

  • Customers who get one-on-one attention not only say they’re more satisfied—they show it. With one-to-one marketing, customers show an increased likelihood to make a repeat purchase, sign up for loyalty programs, and spread the word to their friends on and offline.

Reduced Churn

  • On the other side of the coin, increased relevance means customers are going to stick around. Think about that coffee order again. You’ll choose to keep frequenting the shop that delivers your ideal order every time over the one-off drive thru that gives you cream when you ask for milk.

Accurate Product Forecasting

  • Getting a purchase right isn’t only a win for the customer. The brand benefits too. 

  • By getting the product and messaging right the first time, customers are satisfied with one smooth delivery. As a result, returns decrease, you can avoid stockpiles of unsold products, and brands can more accurately forecast inventory.

Learn More Through Loyal Customers

  • Consistent one-to-one marketing gives rise to increased loyalty. When brands can see the journey of a customer through time—what products they enjoy, the biggest snags in purchasing processes, and what content they resonate with—they build better marketing plans.

  • For example, if a company has a stream of one-time buyers, their short-term revenue increases, but discerning a pattern in the data and adapting their strategy will be lengthy.

  • Companies that rely on loyal customers will adjust their strategies with far more agility, creating a marketing plan with better longevity.

One-to-one marketing works, but how and where do you start building a sophisticated strategy? The following is a quick guide to get you started.

Your Starter Guide to One-to-One Marketing

If personalization, customization, and segmentation are the pillars of one-to-one marketing, data is the foundation. Learn the data-driven steps that will empower one-to-one marketing for brands of every size and focus:

Building a Customer Profile

To make your customer feel seen and heard, you need to get to know them as an individual:

Identify Your Customers

  • Brands need more than basic segmentation. To learn what resonates with each customer, marketers must be quick to observe and the first to ask.

  • If a customer’s already active, use their first-party data to create targeted messaging. For customers that need a little encouragement to make their next move, deploy campaigns that gather zero-party data, such as live polling or quizzes.

Differentiate Your Customers

  • Once you’ve begun identifying your customers’ needs and preferences, a valuable next step is differentiating their relationships to your brand.

  • Identify which frequent customers you can guide towards long-term loyalty and which lapsed individuals need more interaction. 

  • Determine who are the high-value customers that make up the bulk of your bottom line and prioritize those communications.

Interact With Your Customers

  • Omni-channel marketing is the best way to identify and differentiate your customers. 

  • By meeting customers on every available device, brands increase their touchpoints. The more touchpoints, the more opportunities there are to learn about individual preferences and enhance the one-to-one marketing experience they crave.

Envisioning the Ideal Customer Journey

  • One-to-one marketing creates an immediate connection, but just like any relationship, both parties want to know where it’s headed. And in this case, it’s the job of the brand to communicate and take the lead.

  • As customers receive marketing communications, every touchpoint should guide them towards an optimal purchasing pattern. That means decreasing discount dependence, increasing brand loyalty, and buying high-value items. 

  • As each ideal customer path varies among individuals, so too must the messaging that gets them there.

Evaluate and Reiterate

  • One of the main differentiators of true one-to-one marketing is its agility. Once a customer has made their needs known, the faster a brand can adapt to those preferences the better. 

  • This is a core feature of one-to-one marketing that every brand needs to lean into, but especially for more streamlined companies that can act nimbly. Use your size as an opportunity to not only react quickly, but proactively anticipate customer needs.

Brands often scrap one-to-one marketing when unforeseen obstacles arise. With this starter guide in your tool box, it’s time to look ahead and troubleshoot before problems arise.

The Challenges of One-to-One Marketing

Smartly activating one-to-one marketing comes down to tailoring the strategy to your brand. Keep a clear vision of who you are as a brand, weigh the costs vs. benefits of every move against your resources, and always align them with the end goals of your company.

The Pitfalls Large Companies Face

While an enterprise-level company has seemingly countless resources at their fingertips, they face their own unique set of challenges. With a larger customer base, it’s difficult to scale a 1:1 connection with their customers. 

For larger companies implementing one-to-one marketing, they need to keep a close eye on differentiating their customers and opt for automated processes.

With countless customers, a large portion of revenue often stems from a relatively small percentage of shoppers. When initially building a one-to-one marketing strategy, brands need to prioritize serving those who spend more and spend often.

That’s not to say only an elite few customers truly matter—that’s where automation steps in. With automation, brands can deploy messaging that puts the recipient front and center without the labor of manually combing through every customer. The key? Powering your automation with data-driven marketing campaigns that use relevant customer data to build each message.

The Demands of Small Brands

While small teams may interact with every customer, customization can prove to be a challenge. You may not have the resources to create several versions of marketing for an in-demand product. 

In this case, don’t  spread your brand too thin in an effort to check off every single box in the one-to-one marketing list. Lean into your strengths—agility and customer interaction—and take this opportunity to reevaluate where you can streamline your processes. 

Manually coding and sending every marketing message? Consider automation. Want to guide customers to the product options you do have? Leverage fun personalized campaigns with quizzes and scratch-offs. Now is the time to keep up with your customers, reiterate, and perfect the one-to-one marketing moves you are implementing.

Wide Vs. Narrow Product Offerings

Size isn’t the only factor brands need to keep in mind when building their one-to-one marketing strategies. They must consider their unique product portfolio.

By nature, some brands have wide product offerings—such as a department store—while specialty stores offer relatively narrow merchandise.

Does this mean one-to-one marketing only applies to the department store, whose wider product portfolio suggests a greater variety in messaging? Not quite.

Every brand can build a one-to-one connection, it’ll simply be individualized. While the department store can continually send more suggestions and learn about product preference among their customers, the niche store can conduct product research and develop great customization options.

One-to-One Marketing in Action

Sometimes the best way to tell is to show—here’s a snapshot of one-to-one marketing at its best.

A message that treats a customer as an individual doesn’t mean being packed with as much information as possible—it means getting the right message to the right customer with strategic communications.

In this email, the hero image displays new expansion content for one of the customer’s favorite completed games. Underneath, suggestions based on previous play activity are shown. Using email personalization, Inkredible Gaming demonstrates  both that they’re listening and that they’re taking action on what they hear from customers.

In this mobile personalization example, a rich push notification recommends a new audiobook. Based on previous listening activity, Inkredible Media can predict that this selection will delight the customer, and marketers include a CTA to bookmark the title until a later date. As an extra helping hand, the customer is reminded that they can snag this title when a new credit arrives in just two days.

The Future of One-to-One Marketing

One-to-one marketing is cyclical. As brands consider why and how they should implement one-to-one communications, they’re reconsidering a method that is as old as commerce itself. Similar to brick-and-mortar locations where storeowners would remember their customers and organically build a relationship with them, one-to-one marketing seeks to achieve the same result.

The only difference is the online context; and today, technology is limitless. Here’s how to maximize technology and stay on the cutting edge of your one-to-one marketing strategy:

A/B Testing

If you never try, you’ll never know. One of the best practical ways to understand your customers is to test what works.

What is A/B testing? It’s the practice of setting a control group and a test group to learn the efficacy of a new method. In other words, brands will send an experimental message to a small group of their customers and gauge its results.

For successful messages, brands can send the new and improved message to the entire targeted audience, and take note of it for future communications. For those that don’t quite meet the mark, the risk is small and most of the customer base remains unaffected by an ineffective message.

One-to-One Marketing to the Masses

Now that one-to-one marketing has been unpacked, you can see the clear difference between it and mass marketing, where the goal is to simply sell a product to as many customers as possible. It’s not a bad goal, but it misses the nuances and long-term vision of one-to-one marketing.

Does that mean mass marketing should be scrapped and batch-and-blasts should hit the bin? Not quite. 

With the power of AI growing all the more sophisticated, one-to-one marketers should anticipate the combination of individualized marketing on a massive scale.

With AI, marketers will be able to keep the goal of communicating with as many people as possible while maintaining that individual connection with each person. Batch-and-blasts will no longer be seen as a necessary evil to get news out with no hopes of it contributing to long-term growth. Instead, each mass email will have the capabilities of communicating to each consumer individually, all while learning more about them.

One-to-one marketing is a tried-and-true method, but technology will take it to the next level. Today is the day to get to know your customers.

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