Learn the Difference Between Personalization, Segmentation and Individualization

The word “personalization” is thrown around quite a bit by marketers, but in general terms has a few different meanings. Instead of getting hung up on labels or buzzwords, it’s important to break down “personalization” and understand the similarities and differences of: segmentation, personalized messaging, and individualization.


Some marketers claim they are using personalization because they use visitor segmentation in their messaging. While it can be argued that visitor segmentation has elements of personalization it really does not mean the same thing.

Segmentation in marketing is the process of defining and dividing a large market base into clearly identifiable segments that show similar needs, wants, or demand characteristics. The objective is to design a marketing campaign that closely matches the expectations of customers in the targeted segment.

The typical segmentation strategies are based on differences in: geography, basic behaviours, demographics, and psychographics. This allows marketers to ‘personalize’ the mass list into targeted groups. The general marketing messaging used with this type of segmentation is a disadvantage as it is less likely to connect with prospects. The more general the message, the greater possibility marketing efforts are falling on deaf ears. Real personalization goes deeper.

Personalized Messaging

Automation platforms enable marketers to add more personalization in marketing campaigns. While most messaging today makes use of this feature, often it has no more depth than using a first name in emails and some basic filtering.

This basic level of personalization has its benefits. Consumers are constantly barraged by mass marketing and often tune it out. A relevant personalized message is more likely to attract their attention and appear more credible.

Many marketers are stuck at this phase of the personalization evolution and are content with their level of adoption. The reality is this is just beyond segmentation. These tactics may initially grab attention, but in today’s hyper-connected world, more is required to maintain and build a connection with prospects. Personalization needs to go further and include context as well.


A goal for any effective marketing campaign should be to utilize personalization to evolve campaigns and engagement over time. Personalization should be a two-way relationship between a business and its customers and prospects. Being able to deliver on this generates higher conversions and ultimately sales.

Why You Need Full Data

From initial contact using real-time adaptive messaging, to personalized website experience and follow-up contact, genuine individualization creates truly personal, contextual engagement with customers. And this requires cross-channel data collection and adaptive dynamic content.

Successful marketers use data driven analytics and adaptive engagement strategies to communicate with customers on their terms, across a variety of channels. There are three main steps to moving from simple personalization to truly individualization marketing.

Some Tips

  • Gather the Data – All the Data – Effective marketing programs are built on facts, and customer data is king. Modern marketers must enhance their customer databases with information that is deeper than demographic and history profile data. Users are engaging across multiple channels: email, web visits, social and phone calls. Marketers need to leverage all the data to deliver an experience tailored to the individual.
  • Use Analytics to Make Use of the Data – Adaptive marketing programs and platforms, such as ActiveDEMAND, are in sync with customers, using analytics to extract valuable insights from user behavior generated data. While segmentation has long been a key component of a successful strategy, it shouldn’t be the only analytical engine driving the effort. Customer engagement analytics and predictive models are also critical.
  • Adapt the Experience Based on Analytics – The one-size-fits-all marketing approach is dead. Smart marketers take advantage of technology-driven marketing solutions, like contextual dynamic content to create custom-tailored campaigns for each person’s unique needs.

Using customer data to deliver the right message to the right customer, at the right time, through the right channel, is not the future of marketing – it’s today’s reality.