Personalization Best Practices For Data-Centric Retailers

0aaaRoger Barnette MessageGears

In a world where your customers and prospects are expecting personalized communication, more customer data means more complex marketing programs. Unfortunately, for large business-to-consumer (B2C) retail companies, the sheer size and complexity of a customer dataset can result in less personalization. But this doesn’t mean enterprise retailers can’t excel at personalization. Below are three best practices for effectively accessing and using customer data for increased personalization.

1. Create Campaigns Where Data Lives

Create campaigns where the data that drives your communication lives. For most small businesses, this happens in the marketing cloud — but what about large retail enterprise organizations that have too much data to store in a marketing cloud CRM?

The principle of creating campaigns where the data lives still applies to large, data-centric enterprise retailers. It just looks a little different than it does for small businesses that store data in a marketing cloud CRM. Most enterprise-level organizations invest millions in implementing and managing a secure database behind a company firewall.


Creating email where data lives for these enterprise organizations means building campaigns behind a company firewall and using the cloud only for rendering and delivery. This allows enterprise organizations to access all their customer data in real time instead of sending select pieces of data to the cloud and constantly syncing them with the internal database.

2. Integrate Data

Small organizations that store all customer data in a marketing cloud CRM platform have access to a global customer view, but large retail organizations often are forced to use multiple, disparate sources of data. Adopting multiple platforms that all require their own database can limit how organizations use their data.

Fragmented marketing means many retailers have data stored in silos that prevents marketers from having a complete view of customers. The larger the organization, the more dots there are to connect. When data points are not connected, customers often receive messages that are irrelevant to their situation. Marketers need visibility into everything customers are doing to effectively communicate with them, yet data integration remains a top challenge for marketers, especially at large organizations with multiple departments.

Overcoming these divisions means shifting to a centralized database that all departments can access, including the marketing team. By organizing your customer data around a centralized database model instead of parsing out data between different applications, you gain an expanded view into the entire customer journey. For retailers that want to successfully incorporate personalized, real-time marketing into their strategy, storing all facets of marketing data in a single database is a must, but customer data is not the only data marketers need to access. Marketers may also need access to data such as real-time inventory levels , geolocation data, shipment tracking data, etc. In fact, your marketing success depends upon the accessibility of your entire data set, not just customer data.

3. Personalize Without Compromising Data Security

Personalization requires retailers to collect and store personally identifiable information (PII) about customers, but the security concerns of sending sensitive data to marketing clouds prevent marketers from using most of this data. Having a vast amount of data about customers and not being able to use it is a major frustration for marketers. If data is not allowed to leave the security of the company firewall, how can marketers do anything more sophisticated than build campaigns based on a “spray and pray” model?

For these marketing teams, there is an answer that increases personalization without comprising data security — KMS (Key Management Service) encryption. KMS encryption allows retailers to encrypt individual pieces of data across a dataset, including PII such as email addresses or health and financial information, and prevent even their own data engineers or marketers from seeing that data as they build audiences and messages. Users just see an encrypted code instead of the actual PII data. A third-party cloud services program holds the key to decrypting that data via a key name that the customer delivers to them.

Decryption occurs only at the moment of launch of an individual campaign. The only data transmitted and decrypted from these sources is the data used to personalize the message, sent as emails, push notifications, text messages or other outbound messaging. This level of security provides retailers with the confidence to send highly personalized messages that key off everything from geolocation to preferred store to most recent order. As a result, marketers can segment and communicate in a way that’s unique to each individual customer at scale. Meanwhile, they aren’t exposing any PII to their internal teams or to any legacy marketing cloud.

There are many advantages to being a large retail enterprise with vast resources, but with size comes complexity. Fortunately, following these three key email marketing best practices can increase the personalization and speed of any campaign, regardless of size. 


Roger Barnette is CEO of MessageGears, a revolutionary email marketing technology provider that allows major global brands to deliver individualized experiences to their customers at scale in real-time. Barnette is focused on helping global businesses expand their marketing reach through innovative yet practical technology and services solutions.

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