Performance Marketing Expert

Q&A with a Personalization Expert: Personalization Best Practices, Misconceptions, and Challenges

Personalized marketing messages are essential to intriguing consumers and keeping them engaged. If you’re looking to watch a movie, would you rather comb through a disorganized list of 100 movies or see 20 movies that you may be interested in based on your past viewing behavior? If you’ve been searching online for new winter boots, would you rather purchase the boots at full price after a week of comparison shopping, or see additional boot recommendations and a coupon in an email following a few minutes of online browsing? If you’re like the majority of customers, the options with a personalized touch are most appealing.

In a Media Math study of global advertisers and marketers, the majority of respondents (53%) said that “a demand to deliver more relevant communications and be more ‘customer-centric’” is among the most important factors driving their investment in data-driven marketing and advertising, outpacing all other relevant factors.

The value of personalization is clear, but it’s not always a priority. And, if it is prioritized, it’s not always obvious how to execute it successfully. Erik Severinghaus is the founder of the personalization platform SimpleRelevance, which is now a driving force behind Rise Interactive’s personalization capabilities. From his experience mastering personalization in digital marketing, he knows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to personalization. Below, he shares his perspective on personalization, misconceptions about creating individualized messages, and best practices for reaching digital marketing goals.

Q&A with Erik Severinghaus, Founder of SimpleRelevance and VP of Personalization at Rise Interactive

1. What are you most looking forward to at Rise?

Mostly, the ability to do more advanced personalization at a faster rate. The combination of Rise’s amazing client base and best-in-class technology, paired with the platform SimpleRelevance has developed, means we’re going to achieve more results and provide more value within an impressive time frame.

2. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about marketing as you’ve built a personalization platform?

With all the talk of data-driven marketing and the importance of personalization, the reality is that most marketers are still segmenting. This means they’re marketing the way they always have, rather than using a 360-degree customer profile that truly leverages individual insights into each consumer.

3. What are the most common gaps you’ve seen in digital marketers’ attempts to personalize marketing messages?

The gap that partially contributes to the biggest challenge, as I briefly touched on in the previous response, is a lack of basic data hygiene that inhibits an organization’s ability to even begin the personalization process. Investing in the infrastructure to make a brand’s creative assets or a product feed readily available and its data fully usable adds a value that can’t be overstated.

4. What’s a common misconception about personalization and why do you think it exists?

The most common misconception is that personalization is difficult. People think of it in terms of segmentation; if segmentation is hard, then a significant increase in segments, for example, personalizing across a million segments instead of one, will be a million times more difficult. Thinking of personalization on a relational level is a mistake. You can actually reduce your number of day-to-day tasks if you use the right technology to automate them.

5. With all these technologies available, what’s one key thing marketers should keep in mind?

There’s a tremendous amount of noise out there and a lot of technologies say they offer the same thing: “technology for reaching the right person, with the right message, at the right time to drive optimal ROI.” Digital marketers should evaluate a potential solution with an inquisitive eye for how it fits into their current technology architecture.

6. What should be on a digital marketer’s list of New Year’s resolutions?

To actually execute on cross-channel marketing. Most organizations are still separated by silos and they rarely communicate with each other. It’s important to test data with personalization efforts in one channel to drive results in another.

7. Is there a channel of marketing you see the most potential for in 2016 and years to come?

I’m a big believer in not looking at it through the eyes of “channel-by-channel.” I see enormous opportunity in leveraging data through cross-channel efforts. That’s where you unlock true power. There are so many solutions for how to be best in class within each individual channel, but combining those efforts and forcing your organization to execute cross channel will offer much more reward for the effort.

8. What other adventures do you have planned for 2016?

At the beginning of the year, I’ll be climbing my highest mountain to date: Aconcagua Mountain, which is 22,000 feet high. As of now, the highest I’ve climbed is Kilimanjaro (19,300 feet). I’ll also be planning some ski mountaineering throughout the year.

There you have it: the steps to unlocking your data to create personalized messages for your consumers.

For more information on personalization and using your data the right way, reach out to Rise or email

12/17/2015 at 12:00