Content Personalization vs. Segmentation: Why the Difference Lies in Individualization


One of the themes discussed repeatedly at the ANA Masters of Marketing conference was the importance of moving toward more personalized and relevant experiences for customers.

That’s easy to say but traditionally hard to do, because most of the so-called personalization engines rely on human intervention to set up segments and content sequences that make sense, based on the marketers’ understanding of the customer journey. And since they’re set up based on the marketer’s view of the customer journey and not the customer’s view of the journey, it’s not really personalization at all. It’s just a version of segment marketing.

For years, organizations have segmented direct mail, email and website experiences, targeting content, offers and messaging to smaller audience segments based on demographic or behavioral characteristics. The former is typically a blunt tool. But when you focus on the latter and target users based on behavior triggers, response rates grow significantly. But there’s a limit to the time marketers have to set up these segments and then optimize on a frequent basis. It’s hard to get to 100 segments and manage 100 difference sequences, and most marketers max out at 8 segments. And when you consider optimization, the workload multiplies. In this environment, real-time personalization is impossible.

True real-time personalization is delivering content based on the unique characteristics and behaviors of each individual, and in turn, delivering individualized content for each person based on their content consumption history across channels—and in real time.

But as personalization has grown in popularity, many people are confusing it with segmentation.

The limitations with segmentation

While segmentation helps you increase the relevancy of your emails and website experience and improve general engagement, the downside is that this level of personalization is limited in order to ensure your content appeals to the entire segment of people.

Additionally, segmentation is resource intensive. There’s a limit to how many segments you can set up, which also limits your ability to optimize. And since content delivery is based on campaign management time, segmentation also limits your ability to deliver content in real time, thereby limiting its relevance to users.

Individualization is true personalization

While marketers have been mistaking segmentation for personalization for years, today consumers expect personalized content experiences from brands. But true personalization should:

  1. Personalize content to a segment of one
  2. Be refreshed in real time based on individual profiles
  3. Be constantly updated based on user behaviors and preferences

That’s what experts are dubbing “individualization.”  Marketing technology today enables marketing organizations to understand customers as individuals, including their unique preferences and behaviors. Based on these individualized insights, marketers can provide meaningful content experiences for users.

The benefits of individualization

When it comes to ROI, delivering individually personalized content leads to significantly higher engagement and conversion rates.

For example, IBM Security used personalization technology to deliver real-time security news and evergreen content, displaying individually relevant content recommendations to visitors on its blog and news pages based on users’ individual interest profiles. As a result, IBM Security saw a 15% lift in engaged pageviews, which are defined as a visitor viewing content for at least 30 seconds and scrolling at least 25% down the page. In addition, they saw a more than 16% lift in engaged time with content, and visitors who interacted with the content were 13% more likely to consume 3+ pieces of content per session, growing the number of highly engaged readers for the site.

In addition to ROI-driving metrics, individualization also significantly reduces production time by eliminating manual management of segmentation efforts. This allows marketers to reinvest resources in content strategy and development to fuel personalization.

As the data shows, marketers don’t have to be satisfied with salutation or segmentation-based efforts. Marketing technology today enables marketing team to reach for the stars when it comes to real-time personalization. Or as we like to call it—individualization.

Get a demo of OneSpot’s personalization platform to explore how you can personalize content-driven experiences across digital channels. Or contact us about our strategic services to discover how we can help you further your content programs.


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