5 ways companies are using digital marketing to personalize advertising

By Brooke Chaplan

Many consumers feel inundated with ads and have negative reactions to invasive advertising and companies that collect data for targeted ads. On the flip side, past studies have shown that personalized ads boost engagement and make users feel more in charge of their marketing experience. The issue is that targeted ads can become just another annoyance when consumers are inundated by them.

Digital marketing is capable of reaching customers in a more meaningful manner, but must be used wisely to not overwhelm consumers. Here are a few of the ways that companies are working to personalize their advertising capabilities.

Choice-first advertising

The use of targeted banner and mobile ads is less effective dthese days because many internet-savvy users are getting so inundated with tailored ads. Studies have indicated that most Americans are exposed to in between 4,000 and 10,000 ads each day. As consumers are more and more aware of the ways in which their data is used to target ads, these ads can, on their own, seem more intrusive than helpful. The Reality Report suggests that a major shift in mobile marketing from ‘data-driven’ to ‘choice-first advertising’ helps avoid this intrusion: “Unless users are given an explicit choice – to share data or not, to receive ads or not – there will always be an underlying resentment towards the ads they are shown.”

The solution they found between this seeming disconnect between consumer’s preference for personalization and irritation at targeted ads was simply this: choice. They reported that 71% of their consumers are willing to share data in exchange for free content as long as they can make an informed choice about it.

Direct mailers

A major part of respecting consumer choice comes from focusing your efforts on warm leads as opposed to cold ones. Users who have already interacted with your product or website have already expressed interest. While pop-up ads are seen as irritating, direct mail is for many consumers seen as less intrusive, even if it is more personalized. This is at least in part due to the fact that they have control over whether they open and read the mail or not.

The direct mailing method is making a comeback through the digital acquisition of “warm leads.” Mail retargeting services, for example, focus on users who have visited your site or shown interest in a product. This is because mail feels like a more personalized experience for a customer that may have chosen to sign up for your mailing list or had their information acquired through other digital means. Their physical nature also feels less intrusive than an ad that interrupts a consumer on their mobile device or browsing session.

Follow-up marketing

Following up with the customer is a great way to generate more sales. If a customer visits your site and leaves an order unfinished or items in their cart, they don’t usually mind a follow-up email. Email reminders may be the key to sparking your customer’s memories or interest in your product. It also gives you a chance to gather more information about the demographics of your customer base to develop better business intelligence.

Follow-ups target customers who have already expressed interest, which is again an aspect of choice-driven marketing. Consumers may be less likely to be irritated by these personalized reminders, as they understand that their choices are what your ads are reacting to. It puts them in control of their experience.

Similar search items

One way to drum up extra business is to make recommendations for similar items that your customers may also be interested in after a sale. For example, some websites do a very good job at showcasing similar items that other customers have purchased along with their first purchase. This gives your customer a more personalized experience when they’re shopping with you, and feels more helpful than intrusive.

By targeting your personalization in ways that focus on the warm leads who have already chosen to seek you out, you minimize feelings of aggravation that cold leads will experience getting ads out of the blue.

Focus on layout

Individualize your website layout to put the items or services that each customer is most likely to look at near the top. Certain software programs can use shopper’s personal browsing history to create these personalized layouts. You want to make it as convenient as possible to do business with you. Customers are more likely to be loyal if they feel as though you value their time and tailor your design to suit their needs. Again, this feels less like manipulation or inundation to consumers, and more like personalized assistance.

Companies that work to personalize advertising do better in the long run, but only if they properly understand why and how customers take advantage of targeted ads and outreaches. Use these ideas to get you started on creating an effective digital marketing campaign, and remember to focus on ways to make the consumer feel in control of their experience.


Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

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