Personalization: The Complete Guide

By Caitlin Seele

Have you ever received an email that reads like this? 👇

Hi, [First Name],

I see you work at [company name] as [title] and may be interested in learning more about our services. Can we set up a time to chat?

If you have, then you know how unlikely it is that an email like this is going to actually start a conversation.

The truth is that’s still (still!) what personalization looks like for so many sales and marketing campaigns. But to truly do personalization effectively, you can’t just plug names into a template and call it a day.

Personalization is about making your potential customers’ lives easier by providing a genuinely helpful, five-star buying experience.

Here’s everything you need to know about personalization, how we approach personalization at Drift, and how you can successfully personalize every aspect of your marketing and sales strategy 👇

What Is Personalization and Why Does Personalization Matter?

Personalization is the process of providing tailored and seamless experiences based on previous buyer and customer behavior. Done right, personalization acts as the foundation of every marketing campaign.

Just think of personalization as a way of providing a great user experience. B2C companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify have become leaders in personalization because they successfully deliver curated experiences based on individual behavior. These brands have set the standard for everyone — even for B2B brands. Across all industries, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.

We are way past the point where personalization boils down to adding first-name tokens in emails. But personalization doesn’t have to be challenging or truly 1:1. Adding a layer of AI technology like Drift makes it possible to personalize at scale.

What Experiences Can Be Personalized?

The key to personalization is to provide a consistent experience across every single channel. Nobody wants to click on an ad or email that offers a solution to a challenge they’re facing only to get sent to a high-level product page — or worse, a home page. You need to ensure the “post-click” experience is personalized as well, from an ad through to the corresponding landing page and follow-up communications.

Here, it’s important to provide a seamless journey so your buyer can understand what you do and grow to like and trust your brand.

At Drift, we map out the full customer lifecycle — from the first follow on social media to the first content download, all the way up to a closed deal and even customer expansion. Though not every customer will become a power user or a champion, having a map of that ideal customer journey helps us identify points where a little personalization can go a long way.

From there, you can use a mix of technology and old-fashioned effort to personalize just about everything based on buyer behavior — not just demographic information. This includes:

  • Chat: This is one of the easiest ways to provide a personalized touch without writing a ton of fancy code. You can greet visitors differently based on the channel they come from, offer recommended content based on their behavior, or start a conversation that is directly relevant to the page they’re currently browsing.
  • Email: While it’s great to personalize your email copy directly, you can also automatically trigger emails to keep the ball rolling. For example, you can set up an email to fire when a visitor downloads a certain piece of content, makes a purchase, or visits specific pages on your site.
  • Advertising: You can leverage what we call 1:few advertising, to target everyone who’s downloaded one of strongest offers with a more actional related offer. This kind of personalization can feel most relevant, because you’re promoting other offers on topics that you know your buyer is interested in.
  • Direct mail: This may warrant a little more effort in terms of personalization — but it’s well worth the extra personal touch. Grab your buyers’ attention by crafting customized direct mail campaigns or sending personalized swag to high-level accounts.
  • Website: You can be sure that your buyer will end up on your website at some point. Use software to personalize landing pages, headlines, and other copy so it speaks directly to where they are in the buyer’s journey and what products they’re looking for.

A great personalization strategy will weave together real-time personalization and creativity to offer up a cohesive experience across web pages, ads, email, and more based on buyer behavior. So ultimately, when a buyer clicks on one of your emails or ads, they will be taken to a landing page or chatbot experience that directly matches what they clicked.

What Data Can Be Used in Personalization?

Data powers personalization. The real question is: How much should you use?

Brands can come off as creepy when they insert a buyer’s first name, company name, or other demographic data into their copy without context. You don’t have to tell me that you know my name is Caitlin and I live in San Francisco and I have over 20 houseplants. That’s too much, too soon.

Instead of obsessing over that initial touch, think about the second visit and beyond. Personalization is about ensuring every interaction a buyer has with you is productive and informative — which means you need to be on the exact same page as your buyer.

With the imminent loss of third-party cookies, it’s critical that you have systems in place that will help you collect first-party data, i.e. data that is willingly provided by site visitors. Marketers are increasingly relying on tools like Conversational AI to better understand their buyers. In fact, 40% of marketers say that AI is allowing them to get more actionable insights from marketing data.

But it’s not enough to just have access to first-party data — you also need to be able to use it. That’s why it’s important that you have an integrated tech stack that will automatically share data between systems. For example, we use lead scoring tools like 6sense to identify high-intent accounts so we can automatically route in a sales rep for a live chat.

As you have more conversations with your buyers and learn what their needs and goals are, you can create increasingly personalized experiences for them at every touchpoint. Some examples of data you can use include:

  • Demographic information: First and last name, job title, company name
  • Browsing behavior: Number of site visits, pages visited, and other engagement like ebook downloads and webinar registrations
  • Prospect history: Number of chats, chat content, call transcripts, events attended
  • Customer history: Products or services purchased

7 Examples of (Non-Creepy) Personalization Campaigns

When it comes to designing a personalization campaign, it’s hard to know where the line is between effective and creepy. That’s where some inspiration might help.

Here are a few of our favorite campaigns which can help you get the conversation started.

1. Netflix

It’s one thing to have shows you recently watched pop up at the top of your Netflix homepage. But Netflix offers a wholly unique experience by recommending highly specific genres based on your watch history, from “Biographical Martial Arts Movies” to “Critically Acclaimed British Dramas.” (I’m partial to The Crown myself.)

While Netflix uses the home page to showcase their most popular shows as well, ultimately, no two home pages are alike. When it comes to personalization, what Netflix does really well is to sort their thousands of movies and shows into distinct categories so they can recommend similar content. So, when you finish a show, you can immediately start watching something new that you know you’ll like. And the more you rate, the better those recommendations will be.

You don’t have to completely overhaul your homepage to make it feel as personalized as Netflix. There are multiple types of software out there that allow you to customize your web pages — be it headlines, images, or chatbots — so you can tailor the experience to match your buyer’s ad clicks, social media likes, or search history.

And, if you want to take another page out of Netflix’s book, you can use A/B testing to find out what drives the most engagement. Netflix does this with their artwork to collect data about their users’ interests so they can serve up personalized visuals that will entice people to watch.

Source: Netflix

2. TikTok

Tiktok builds curated, hyper-specific video feeds that have spawned specific communities like #booktok, #cottagecore, or #dancetok and driven massive cultural shifts as a result.

If there’s one brand that is the future of personalization, it’s TikTok. With short, easy-to-digest videos that are geared towards you, it’s no wonder that you can lose hours scrolling your feed. It’s amazing the rabbit holes you can fall down — I mean, have you ever seen chef reactions TikTok? It’s bingeworthy.

Although your website won’t beat TikTok’s addictive qualities (sorry), you can take cues from its capacity for community-building and ease of search. Curate playlist-style sections on your blog, recommend “For You” content, and use tools like Drift Video to send simple videos to capture some of the magic of face-to-face interactions.

3. Spotify

Spotify’s annual “Wrapped” campaign summarizes thousands of hours of streaming data to deliver personalized trends in a fun dashboard. But that’s not the only Spotify campaign that shows their knack for great personalization.

In June 2021, Spotify launched the “Only You” campaign, dedicated to celebrating the unique way you listen to music. The campaign drew on statistics to showcase your audio birth chart, unique audio pairings, what you listened to at different times of day, and more.


Source: Spotify

Not only did Spotify prove exactly how well they personalized your listening to you, but they also created a space for you to feel connected with other listeners who shared your tastes by launching their Blend feature through the campaign.

This serves as great inspiration for something like a customer-focused email campaign that pulls on behavioral data from your products. People love to dive into their own data like this — and, with the right visuals, you can showcase how they stand out among your users.

4. JetBlue

Airline carriers routinely offer plenty of movies to choose from on their entertainment systems, but this was a first for me.

The last time I flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles on JetBlue, their in-flight entertainment system greeted me by name and recommended movies and shows that fit into the flight time. Talk about personalization that’s also helpful, right?

While first-name tokens are truly the tip of the personalization iceberg, it goes a lot further than you think. When someone lands on your website, it’s much easier for them if they’re greeted by name and can pick up the conversation where they left off — rather than having to fill out a gigantic form for the third time. Ultimately, what this example shows is the importance of using the information you have to deliver a consistent, personalized experience.

5. Amazon

Although we’ve covered a lot of website personalization already, no list of personalization campaigns would be complete without mentioning Amazon.

What’s remarkable about Amazon’s method of personalization is its sheer scale. Using AI and deep learning, they’ve built a recommendation engine that almost seems to read your mind. Just take a look at your home page, and you’ll probably notice a medley of recommendations including seasonal products, items to buy again, items related to ones you’ve viewed, and a whole lot more.

But Amazon goes even further by leveraging behavioral data to stay one step ahead of the buyer. That’s how you get the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature, which recommends other products you might like based on other people’s purchasing behavior.


Whether you want to use this for your own products and features or add a recommended section for your content, this is one of the best ways to increase engagement and drive a more personalized experience — all while encouraging sales.

6. BillingTree

It’s hard to say how many people have received a safe in the mail, unprompted. I’m guessing you haven’t.

In 2019, payment processing leader, BillingTree (now REPAY), was struggling to book meetings with their target accounts — even with the incentive of a gift card. That’s when they partnered with B2B marketing agency UviaUs to come up with an out-of-the-box solution.

And their solution…was a box. BillingTree sent their top priority accounts a locked box that promised an Amazon gift card, but only if the recipient called in to get the combination.

Source: UviaUs

Not only did this work — with 60% of recipients reaching out to BillingTree — but it also left a lasting impression. Once a prospect got the box opened, they were treated to a personalized video message that spoke to the simplicity and all-in-one nature of BillingTree’s solution. As a result, BillingTree was able to drive nearly $200,000 worth of opportunities and garnered a 700% ROI on their campaign. Talk about big things coming in small packages.

7. Okta

As we’ve already seen, great personalization isn’t limited to B2C companies.

Okta’s website is the centerpiece of its digital brand. Each month, their website helps more than one million visitors understand how Okta protects and enables their customers’ employees and partners, as well as how they give clients the tools they need to build secure digital experiences.

To accomplish this, Okta uses Drift across their website, in emails and videos, and to support events — all with the goal of providing a personalized experience to their website visitors. For example, when someone lands on their site that the sales team already knows is a fit for their product, they’re automatically routed to the right sales rep.

This paves the way for more productive sales conversations, saves the sales team time, and increases the efficiency of their inbound motion. With real-time conversations and AI chatbots, Okta doubled their marketing-qualified lead to sales-qualified lead conversion rate.

Build Personalization into Your Digital Experience with Drift

As you’ve probably learned by now, there are many avenues to creating a personalized experience. And while it’s easy to get swept up in all the new shiny new strategies and trends out there, at the end of the day, personalization should always be in service of the buyer.

In our modern, digital age, your website is the most accessible resource you can offer to your buyers.

Drift Conversation Cloud empowers you to engage in high-level real-time personalization by giving you the tools you need to craft an experience that is tailored to your site visitor — based on who they are, their interests and pain points, and where they are in the buying journey.

Ready to see how Drift and personalization go hand in hand? Get a demo today.