According to Econsultancy, 94% of businesses now recognize that personalization is “critical to their current and future success”. Here at Canopy, we’re excited to hear the idea of personalization being embraced by more and more businesses. But what exactly do most marketers mean when they talk about implementing personalization – and is it going far enough to achieve their business goals?

Indeed, personalization is more than just writing ‘Dear %%First_Name%%’ or customizing a few text fields. Real personalization involves tailoring the content that your customers receive, and the sort of products or services that are suggested specifically for them. When done right, personalization not only recognizes that there is an individual behind every email and website click, but ensures that their experience is catered to their interests and respects their time.

By this much more nuanced measure, some 56% of companies admit that they are not currently personalizing on-site experiences, and only 4% considered their own customer experience to be “very personalized”.

Truly Understanding the Digital Consumer

To achieve true digital personalization, businesses need a more thorough picture of their customers from the very beginning. This means knowing what your individual customers have purchased in the past, which email messages they are likely to open, what days they like their emails sent, and which products they’re browsing on your website. To get even more advanced in our understanding, it’s about knowing how much each customer is likely to spend this season, or whether they prefer to make one big purchase a year, or smaller orders every week. Ultimately, it’s about predicting when customers are likely to purchase again, and offering them just the right item at the right time – whether the product is an upgrade from a past purchase, a replacement item, or something else altogether.

In a sense, digital personalization is about getting us closer to Gary Vaynerchuk’s vision of online businesses playing by “small town rules” – or in other words, harkening back to a time when customers frequented their local neighborhood stores, where owners knew their customers by first name, remembered their go-to products and brands, and could recommend new items they were certain the customer would enjoy.

No Longer Just a Nice-to-Have

Personalization is no longer just a luxury or “nice to have” for businesses – today’s online consumers increasingly expect and demand a personalized shopping experience for themselves. A 2013 study by Janrain found that 74% of online consumers would be frustrated if a website’s content (such as offers or promotions) wasn’t personalized to match their own interests. Similarly, another study found that 56% of shoppers would be more likely to return to a website if it offered recommended products customized to them.

What’s more, personalization is already a tried and true success story, from Amazon to Target to Netflix. Amazon estimates that more than 35% of its revenue comes personalization since as early as 2006. Businesses owe it to their customers to offer a truly personalized online shopping experience; to get us closer to the “small town” rules, to better understand the customer’s wants and needs, and to offer them products curated to match their spending habits and preferences. That’s real customer service. And after all – what makes good customer service, ultimately makes for good business.