Personalization has become one of the most essential ways of marketing, with the phrase “relationship marketing” first used in the early 1980s and the term Custom Relationship Management officially entering the business vernacular in the 1990s.

However, 30 years on, most 1:1 personalization marketing efforts fall short of being impactful or measurable. We have come to over-rely on the technology and customer historical data in CRMs for creating predictive analysis, personas, and algorithms rather than looking at ways to understand and serve individuals based on their current intent and motivations.

A lot of research shows that personalization can drive impulse purchases, higher basket values, and greater brand affinity, leading to increased revenue and fewer returns. Sure, that works when you have data on your customers, but what can you do to personalize for anonymous audiences?


Anonymous users present enormous opportunities for businesses. When you pay attention to them—by seeing them as individual consumers instead of generic prospects—you harness the power to convert them into loyal customers by personalizing their experiences.

The main goal of personalizing for anonymous users is to earn their trust. If they trust that you will constantly give them value, they will invite you to communicate with them via apps, SMS, or email which allow for more intimate interactions. And of course, if you combine their anonymous data with the data you collect once you identify them, you won’t be starting from zero, instead, you will already have a good idea of what they want. 

The data you collect through these channels will enable you to develop a more consistent general experience.

Consider this scenario:

You are a retailer, and you have customers’ phone numbers and email addresses. You text them about a sale when they are close to your store and send thank you emails and relevant recommendations to those who made purchases. When they visit your website, those same recommendations appear, keeping relevant products at the top of their minds. That is a really personalized integrated experience.

You should consider three key tactics in moving toward behavioral personalization:


In session data, including micro-interactions enables you to segment users based on their current level of motivation and intention. With traditional personalization, you would map out all the actions and conversions you want to drive online sales and select what to display. However, this approach goes deeper by looking through the lens of how to nudge the user to accomplish those actions.


Categorize metrics of intention and motivation so that you can determine how much someone wants to purchase, browse, and search. For example, Anna bought a few items of clothing recently during a 20% off holiday sale. She quickly put a few tops in her cart and then continued to browse around in pants and cosmetics. From this, you could infer she was a price conscious shopper with high intention and motivation to buy.


Since Anna demonstrated motivation and intent from her behavior, you could make a calculated gamble and upsell similar items in her basket by suggesting color options or even tempting her into an entirely different category. However, if Anna had searched specifically for a small pink Nike t-shirt, you could infer that, although her intention was high, her motivation to browse was not. Similar to the offline example, the smartest plan at this point would be to make her purchase as easy as possible.

Putting efforts into identifying the habits of anonymous users on your website and having a plan for encouraging them to return, can result in a big payoff. When you engage anonymous users credibly, you put them on the path to becoming loyal brand allies. Showing that you notice them from the outset lays the foundation for future interactions.

A global team with offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, Ca., we provide digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.

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