Get in on the action: how behavioral targeting can up your personalization game

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Emily Riedy
8min read
behavioral targeting hero

I was recently shopping for a replacement bowl in my glass mixing bowl set. You know, the ones that come stacked inside of each other like the kitchen’s equivalent of a Russian doll. 

When I found the item I was looking for, I placed the bowl in my cart and proceeded to checkout. But then, the store tacked on a shipping fee that was more expensive than the bowl I was buying (*gasps*).

So I left the site, disheartened. But what do you know, the very next day, I received a personalized email with a picture of the bowl I was going to buy and an offer from the brand to waive the shipping fee. 

Behold, behavioral targeting at its finest. Behavioral targeting has the power to bring shoppers back to your store, get them to engage with your content, or convince them to take whatever desired action you’re encouraging them to do. 

How? By using the actions and behaviors of your customers, subscribers, or website visitors to determine and personalize your next move. A dash of personalization can go a long way; eighty-six percent of shoppers said personalization influences what they purchase, according to a survey conducted by Infosys

It certainly influenced me—I went from the email back to the website and immediately made my purchase. 

Keep reading to learn: 

What is behavioral targeting?

Behavioral targeting uses the activities of your subscribers, customers, or web browsers to determine what kind of messaging will be the most relevant to each individual. 

Collecting data on how your web visitors are interacting with your online store or how your subscribers are reacting to your email campaigns enables your brand to send highly personalized marketing communications. And that’s important. 

While eighty-six percent of consumers said personalization affects what they buy, twenty-five percent said it significantly influences their buying decisions.

So if you’re trying to convince your cart abandoners to make their first purchase or encouraging your VIP customers to take advantage of a seasonal promotion, you’ll most likely benefit from personalizing your outreach—and so will your sales.

The actions your subscribers or customers take on your site or within your email and SMS messages leave a unique trail of behavioral breadcrumbs that your brand can scoop up and sort into different categories. These categories, or audience segments, make it easier for you to send timely, tailored marketing messages to your audience. 

For example, say you group first-time customers into one segment, subscribers who consistently open your email newsletter, but have never made a purchase into another, and then customers who haven’t placed an order in six months into their own. 

Each of those groups can now receive customized email automations that relate back to their own behaviors. A winback email can reengage customers who haven’t purchased from your brand in a while and a browse abandonment email can nudge subscribers who like to play the old, “I’m just going to poke around and not buy anything” card towards checkout. The idea being that whatever the message is, it’s relevant to the customer who receives it.  

Why should you use behavioral targeting?

The name of behavioral targeting’s game is engagement. Your brand can use behavioral targeting to increase the likelihood that your subscribers or customers will take a desired action on your website or app, or within your campaigns—like subscribing to a list, making a purchase, or reading your content.

Shoppers have endless opportunities to buy from brands other than yours, so creating a tailored customer experience is more important than ever. Ninety-three percent of consumers agreed that it’s important every interaction with a brand is excellent, according to a survey conducted by Accenture

But you don’t have to go searching in the dark to discover what an exceptional customer experience looks like. Behavioral targeting can remove the guesswork and help you focus on building an experience around the data your audience provided (and continues to provide). 

It helps you make informed decisions about what will and won’t resonate with your customers and determine the right messages to share at any given stage of the customer lifecycle

You can build connections and genuine relationships when personalization and customization are the bedrock of your marketing communications. 

Sources for behavioral targeting

Behavioral targeting is an effective strategy your brand can use to design a memorable customer experience. But it’s nothing without the data that powers it. 

Base your behavioral targeting strategy on the customer data you collect from four primary sources: Website activity, campaign engagement, buying behavior, and app activity. These sources are the channels or platforms through which your audience interacts with your brand. 

Website activity

When I say that behavioral targeting can help personalize your communications, I wasn’t just talking about your brand’s email and SMS messages. I was also referring to the communications that make up the user experience on your website.  

The actions a shopper takes while browsing through your online store can inform the site experience you provide them. Popups or flyouts are a great way to share customized promotions, ads, or related product information that also encourage your site visitors to subscribe to your content. 

And the fun doesn’t stop when someone leaves your site. You can also apply the insights gathered from your site visitors’ activities to your retargeting strategy, which gives you the ability to advertise products that align with the interests of your customers all over the web, not just on your site.   

Campaign engagement 

Another way your audience can provide you with data for behavioral targeting is through your email and SMS campaigns.

What email and SMS campaigns are your subscribers opening? What are they clicking on? The answers to these questions can not only help you fine-tune your messaging and the content you’re sharing through each channel but they can also help you more appropriately segment your subscriber lists. 

For example, if you have subscribers on your list who haven’t opened a single email since sign-up, try creating a separate unengaged email list for those individuals. That way, you’ll have the opportunity to create a unique user experience for them and test out messaging to try to recapture their interest. 

Buying behavior 

A customer’s purchase history is a valuable data source for behavioral targeting. Clearly seeing what products your customers are spending money on can dictate what product recommendations you offer, what promotions you choose to share, or what email and SMS automations you decide to send. 

Imagine you’re a consumable goods brand that sells shaving products (I’m looking at you, OUI the People). Ideally, your customers are going to need more of the products they bought from you—more razor heads, more shaving cream, those small adhesives that keep your razor holder attached to the shower wall—and when they do, the replenishment email automation can swoop in and save the day.  

A targeted replenishment email automation can nurture your existing customers and encourage repeat purchases—essentially increasing customer loyalty while your eyes are closed. 

App activity 

If you own a mobile app, behavioral targeting is going to be essential in promoting app usage and engagement. 

Think about it: How many apps do you have on your phone right now? And how many of those apps have you opened in the last week? I’m going to take a wild guess and say that there’s probably a large disparity between those two numbers. 

Behavioral targeting can help keep your app top of mind and encourage users back into your app. You can reward more usage with incentives, celebrate app milestones, or even share stories of how others are using your app on a daily basis. Creativity is your only limitation.  

Behavioral targeting vs. contextual targeting

Behavioral targeting is all about crafting a personalized customer experience based on data collected from your audiences’ actions. Their behavior forms the basis of your outreach—what you say and how you present it. 

Contextual targeting is less personalized and only applicable when discussing paid retargeting ads. Contextual targeting focuses on the similarities between content and shows paid ads on contextually similar sites on the Google Display Network. 

Say you’re on an auto industry blog, reading an article on the history of Toyota trucks. If that blog site is on Google, you’re probably going to see ads for Toyota truck bed covers or specialized auto-parts. 

The ad may be relevant to the content on the blog you’re reading, but may not actually apply to you or your interests. So try to lean into personalization wherever you have the option to do so—it’ll help your brand stand out in a crowd. 

Follow your audience’s lead

It’s much easier to make decisions backed by data than it is to guess and hope you’re right—and the actions of your audience can be one of the most powerful data sources for your brand. 

They tell you about your customers’ preferences, their buying habits, and ultimately what they need from you in order to make a purchase, sign up for your marketing communications, or even simply open your emails. 

Take the time to design a customer experience around your customers’ own behaviors to bring your brand’s segmentation and personalization to the next level. 

Your customers, subscribers, and website visitors hold all the information you need to create a memorable experience that drives engagement and promotes customer loyalty—all you need to do is follow their lead. 

Keep the customer experience excellent post-purchase.
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Emily Riedy
Emily Riedy
Content marketing manager
Emily Riedy is a content marketing manager at Klaviyo where she works to publish content to educate and inspire online businesses owners and email marketers. Owned marketing channels are a means to building a substantial customer base for the long-term, and the content Emily is most passionate about helps business operators create strong business foundations in owned marketing principles. Before Klaviyo, Emily worked at a paid ads agency helping businesses transform their approach to digital advertising. When she's not strategizing marketing content, she is running around the streets of Boston training for whatever race is next up on the docket. She lives in the South End with her 2 year-old basenji Fig and frequents (probably too regularly) the local Spanish tapas spot.