You’ve probably heard the term “omnichannel” to describe any business practice that extends across channels, both digital and in-person. When it comes to the omnichannel customer experience, the idea is simple: you’re appealing to one human, so you need to deliver one cohesive experience, because people don’t think about their interactions with your company in isolation. If someone interacts with you in one channel, they expect that you’ll know about that interaction when they re-engage with you in another channel.

That’s where omnichannel personalization enters the picture. In this blog post, I’ll describe what omnichannel personalization is, what it looks like, and what’s needed to achieve it.

What is omnichannel personalization?

We define personalization as “the act of tailoring an experience or communication based on information a company has learned about an individual.”

Omnichannel personalization takes that definition a bit further:

Omnichannel personalization is the act of tailoring an experience or communication in one channel based on information a company has learned about an individual from multiple channels.

As opposed to same-channel personalization (like web personalization, mobile app personalization, etc.) — where a company tailors an experience to an individual in the channel based on information it has gathered in that same channel — omnichannel personalization is channel agnostic. It’s about using data to create a tailored experience regardless of where that data was collected.

Take web personalization, as an example. You can personalize a person’s website experience based solely on what you have learned about her from her interactions with the site. You could recommend products or blog posts by considering what she has spent time viewing on the website in the past, tailor the homepage hero to display a promotion in the category she engages with the most, etc.

But without the ability to bring in data acquired about her from other channels, you will not be able to form a complete picture of her. You won’t know what purchases she made or articles she read on her mobile phone. You won’t know what calls she made to your call center. You won’t know which emails she has opened. When you act on any of that information to deliver a relevant experience in any channel, that’s omnichannel personalization.

Some other examples include the ability to:

  • Identify what a person’s behavior on your site says about her favorite category and use it to deliver a relevant digital ad to that shopper at a later time. For instance, if a shopper has spent the most time engaging with your shoe category, you can deliver shoe-related ads to that person across the internet.
  • Personalize email content to reflect up-to-date information the second your email is opened. For example, if a shopper purchased an item or read an article in any channel before he opened an email, your email can avoid recommending that item or article.
  • Promote relevant offers or content in any channel based on a person’s customer or prospect status, industry, customer segment, loyalty program status, etc.

It doesn’t matter where the data was collected, with omnichannel personalization it can be used to affect an experience at any point of interaction.

What do you need for omnichannel personalization?

When you approach personalization in a channel-by-channel manner, you are likely to approach your technology choices channel-by-channel as well. You will likely pick a technology provider to handle your email personalization, another to handle your web personalization, another to handle your ad personalization, etc. But when you move to omnichannel personalization, you need to ensure that all of your systems can work together to deliver a consistent and seamless experience.

The biggest challenge in personalizing across channels is the ability to recognize and engage an individual person across touch points. Before you can personalize, you need to know who the person is. This is difficult when the data lives across multiple systems. It is a lot easier when all the data about him is located in a central location. For that reason, a customer data platform (CDP) is a must-have for effective omnichannel personalization.

A good CDP for effective omnichannel personalization can:

  1. Take in data from different systems and form unified customer profiles
  2. Stitch customer profiles together to resolve identities
  3. Interpret and analyze the data using affinity models to uncover each individual’s interests, preferences, and intent
  4. Enable activation of the data, either by making data available to other systems to use for personalization, or personalizing an experience directly

It is certainly possible to connect a few channels without a CDP, but complete omnichannel personalization requires all data to live in a central location.


Let’s explore some real-world examples.

Invaluable — the world’s leading online marketplace for fine art, antiques and collectibles — delivers individualized product recommendations to its customers to help them find relevant items within a massive product catalog that changes rapidly as new pieces are auctioned off. To ensure that recommendations are as relevant as possible to each individual, Invaluable brings in data from across its web, mobile and email channels. It uses all of this information to form a single picture of each person and select the most appropriate product recommendations.

omnichannel personalization

EIG ties in-app and human channels together by pushing data from its CDP to Salesforce. EIG launches a short survey within its SaaS applications to ask new users how they plan to use the product. If their answers indicate that they would be good candidates for upsell services, an opportunity is automatically created in Salesforce for the appropriate salesperson to follow up on.

omnichannel personalization

Rewards sites operator Cartera Commerce linked its data warehouse with its CDP to promote consistency between the promotions displayed on its clients’ websites and the ones it offered in emails to individual customers. With this approach, each site can tailor different promotions to different customers and ensure that whatever message was sent to each person via email could also be shown on the website for reinforcement and consistency.

Publishers Clearing House (PCH), a leading provider of digital “play and win” entertainment, offers games across many different sites and even a mobile app. Once a visitor on one site has completed a game, PCH recommends other games he should play. But without connections between its sites and apps, it was unable to restrict its recommendations to games a person had not yet played that day. By bringing all of its data across websites and mobile apps into one CDP, PCH was able to appropriately message each individual with relevant recommendations and reminders no matter which property the person engaged with.

Final Thoughts

More and more, we’re seeing “omnichannel personalization” becoming an unnecessary distinction. As consumers and business buyers continue to switch seamlessly between devices and channels, omnichannel personalization is really just another term for a good, relevant experience. Realistically, all great personalization today should be omnichannel personalization.