The End of an Era: One-to-One Marketing Is Dead

Last week I sat on a panel at eTail East with some great companies and very smart people. Before the panel, we joked about how many buzz words we could use in a 40 minute session – who would be able to say “omnichannel” or “programmatic” the most?

We all laughed as the panel started. This bet got me to really listen to the words my fellow panelists used. As competitive as I am, I refused to allow myself to be out jargoned. 

And then it happened.

As people were speaking about goals, efforts, strategies, and tactics, I realized that an era in marketing that we have known as one-to-one marketing has come to an end. Wow!

Here’s how it happened.

In the mid 1990s, email marketing dared to raise its head, propelling us into an era called one-to-one marketing – not on the outbound email side, but on the inbound side. For the first time ever, this thing called “email” enabled us to directly speak at rapid speed with companies. Likewise, companies could speak directly to customers on an individual basis. It was the dawn of a new age of electronic messaging which flourished for 20 years.

One-to-one marketing quickly evolved from inbound email into other channels including transactional emails, marketing emails, and social marketing with platforms like Facebook and instant messaging apps. Data scientists and analytics finally started to see an opportunity to push business results even further. The world of marketing, attribution, and personalized messaging was a happy place.

Building infrastructures and strategies that could capitalize on one-to-one marketing became the Holy Grail, and from here, innovation could grow even more rapidly. CRM platforms evolved, allowing us to create trigger and event based marketing. Multi-channel messaging became a reality. The dynamic targeting of banners – with both site placement and retargeting – started to consume our media-driven worlds. Even today, in-app notifications and programmatic continue to offer us new ways to create a more personalized outreach or approach.

But let’s not kid ourselves. This evolution of technological and data-driven abilities hasn’t pushed us further into one-to-one marketing. It’s done something quite surprising and arguably even better.

We are evolving away from one-to-one marketing. Today the most savvy of marketers practice a much more intelligent and sophisticated level of one-to-many marketing on a highly personalized level.

What does that mean?

We are not moving away from, “The right message to the right person at the right time.” We’re starting at a different point.

Rather than try to reach every customer individually and cater to their needs, we strategically begin by defining the right audience segments – starting with clusters, lifestyle groups, and response paths of our most profitable current and future customers. Then we turn to our arsenal of programmatic and – dare I say – omnichannel tools to create response pathways that offer personalized product recommendations.

Even though the ultimate message may seem like it is personal, this is being done at the level of many. There are not any companies out there that can afford to design and execute on an individual basis. So we continue to get smarter about how to best conduct a personalized stream on a mass level from an even higher number of individuals.

I’m thrilled that manually-driven, silo one-to-one marketing is dead. In its death, it has opened the door to an even better state: personal marketing.

Homepage image via Shutterstock. 

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