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According to Hubspot, message personalization is the number one tactic used by email marketers to increase engagement rates. Getting up close and personal with your customers is vital to understanding the consumer journey in digital marketing and, ultimately, driving conversions.

In digital marketing, it's not just about targeting the right people. It's also about getting the message right. Message personalization has the power to create a valuable customer experience that leads to better relationships and, in turn, more sales. However, when personalization misses the mark, the cost can be high.

Let's dive in and learn more about how personalized marketing paired with customer journey mapping can help your business reach unexpected heights and avoid any potential pitfalls along the way.

The Consumer Journey in Digital Marketing Starts With Personalization

If you're wondering why personalization matters in marketing, it's simple—your customers expect it (71% of them, actually). And, when you offer a personalized experience, customers return the favor with brand loyalty. In fact, 80% of consumers say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences.

What's more, personalization can have a big impact on your bottom line. A study by Accenture found that companies that view customer service as a value rather than as a cost achieved 3.5X more revenue growth than their competitors.

Clearly, there are plenty of reasons to harness the power of personalized messaging. And, what does that mean, exactly?

At its core, personalization is about understanding your customer and then using that information to create a more customized experience. In terms of the consumer journey in digital marketing, this could be any type of messaging, from addressing them by name in an email to showing them products they're interested in on your website. The goal is to make your customer feel like you understand them and their needs. When done well, personalization can build trust, foster loyalty, and boost conversions.

To begin understanding your customers, first, you need to recognize the customer life cycle and the customer journey.

80% of consumers say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences.

What's the customer life cycle?

Personalization is a powerful marketing tool. So, how does it connect to the customer life cycle?

First things first, the customer life cycle is the journey your customer takes from the beginning when they first become aware of your brand to when they become a loyal, long-term customer.

There are four critical stages in the customer life cycle:

Awareness—The customer becomes clued in on your brand and begins learning about what you offer. Maybe a customer sees an ad for your product on social media or reads a blog post about the benefits of your service.

Interest—Next, the customer develops an interest in your products or services. Their interest leads them to your website, where they learn more about your offer and how it can solve their problem.

Consideration—In this stage, the customer compares your offerings to your competitors. For example, they might read online reviews or ask for recommendations from friends.

Purchase—Finally, congrats, the customer makes a purchase and becomes a paying customer—time to celebrate but also—revisit how to keep 'em comin' back for more.

As you can see, personalization matters at every stage of the customer life cycle. Understanding your customer and tailoring the experience to meet their needs can increase brand awareness, interest, and consideration. Ultimately, this leads to more conversions and loyal, long-term customers.

Of course, personalization ain't easy. It requires careful planning and execution to get it right. That's why we recommend starting with a customer journey map.

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Consumer Journey in Digital Marketing—Mapping It Out

The consumer journey in digital marketing covers every interaction they have with your brand. How can you keep customers engaged through every step in their journey? Personalization, my friend. Instead of guessing what your customers want (and often missing the mark), it's a heck of a lot easier to create personalized content with detailed information about your customer and their actual needs.

But where do you start?

A great place to begin is with customer journey mapping. Customer journey mapping is creating a detailed map of the steps your potential customer takes to become a paying customer. A customer journey map includes everything from their first interaction with your brand to post-purchase follow-up.

This map helps you to understand what your customers need and want at each stage of the buyer's journey. Once you have your customer journey map, you can create a tailor-made experience that meets their needs at every step of the way leading up to conversion.

Creating a Customer Journey Map

There are a few different ways to create a customer journey map. You can start by analyzing how people find your company. Brainstorm all of the touchpoints your customer has with your brand. On the consumer journey in digital marketing, these touchpoints could be anything from visiting your website to reading an email to seeing an ad on social media.

Once you have a list of touchpoints, put them in order, and start mapping out the journey by creating a timeline of sorts. For each touchpoint, answer the following questions:

  • What action does the customer take?

  • What do they see or hear?

  • How do they feel?

  • What options do they have?

Once you understand the journey, you can start thinking about how to personalize each touchpoint.

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Oops—Personalization Mistakes on the Consumer Journey in Digital Marketing

While marketing personalization can be an invaluable tool to move customers through the customer journey in digital marketing, it isn't something you can run on auto-pilot. You need to put in the time to understand your customer and create a strategy that meets their needs. If you don't, you risk making some serious personalization blunders that could cost you conversions and alienate customers.

The Real-World Personalization Fail

Despite good intentions with personalized messaging throughout the consumer journey in digital marketing, brands still manage to get it wrong. Even leading brands can make personalization errors. And personalization done wrong can leave customers feeling frustrated, annoyed, and even offended. Take leading athletic brand Adidas, for example.

In 2017, Adidas sent an email to all Boston Marathon finishers congratulating them on finishing the race. The problem? The subject line read: "Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!" Whoops. The well-intentioned email quickly back-fired in the context of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured over 260 others. This traumatic event at a historic race was still fresh in the minds of many, and so this email personalization was a major fail. It spread like wildfire, resulting in a social media firestorm and plenty of bad press for Adidas.

Fortunately, Adidas recovered quickly and issued an apology within hours. But, this shows that personalization failure can have severe consequences for your brand. So, how can you avoid making the same mistake?

Consider real-world events and how they might impact your personalization strategy. Also, review your personalization efforts with a critical eye to ensure they won't unintentionally offend or alienate your customers. Here are some other blunders to watch out for.

Watch Out For These Messaging Missteps

Always keep the customer journey in mind to avoid messaging mistakes when creating personalized content. Consider what stage of the journey they are in and what kind of information they need at that stage. Some frequent mistakes include:

Failing to segment customers—One of the most common mistakes is failing to segment the audience. You can't create custom content designed for everyone. You need to segment your audience and create content that appeals to each group.

Relying on incomplete data—Data drives personalization. Personalization efforts won't be as effective if they depend on incomplete or untrustworthy data. So, check, and double-check. Use all the data at your fingertips—but also verify its accuracy.

Not measuring the right stuff—Personalization is an ongoing process, and without measuring the right KPIs, you won't be able to tell if your personalization efforts are working. So, before you start, plan what you want to measure and how often. Good personalization includes strategy, analytics, and cross-channel measurement.

Assuming personalization is a one-time effort—One-and-done is not the name of the game when it comes to personalization. Personalization should be an ongoing process that is constantly being fine-tuned and tweaked as you learn more about your customers. Consumer needs and preferences change over time, so your personalization strategy should be revisited regularly.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can set your brand up for success with custom messages for all stages of the consumer journey in digital marketing.

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Demand for personalized consumer marketing continues to skyrocket, with 92% of marketers reporting that customers and prospects expect a personalized experience. All points on the consumer journey in digital marketing demand customized content, from brand awareness to purchase to post-purchase.

As you can see, personalization is essential for building customer relationships—but it's not always easy to get right. So, what can your brand do to create personalized content that resonates with customers?

Understand the buyer's journey and develop a marketing strategy that embraces personalization across all touchpoints. Empowered with customized messaging, your brand can create valuable experiences that build customer loyalty and drive conversions.

Rebel is a research and strategy firm. We analyze consumer journeys to find insights in places you wouldn't expect—to take you to places you never thought possible. Let's get after it.