So, What is One-to-One Marketing?

Plus strategies to execute on you first campaigns

  • Author Profile Image Elliott Moore
  • Published on March 19 2020

When most hear marketing, they often think of something akin to a scene from Mad Men.

What people hear is advertising. They think: Commercials, billboards, pesky pop-ups, social media ads, or “spam” emails. 

Marketing doesn’t have to be interruptive, loud, and spammy to work. In fact, the best marketing is the kind that doesn’t feel like marketing at all. It feels like service.

That’s what one-to-one marketing is all about. 

What is one-to-one marketing?

One-to-one as a marketing strategy isn’t new. Don Peppers and Martha Rogers coined the term in their 1994 book The One-to-One Future. Essentially, one-to-one marketing builds customer relationships, emphasizing personalized interactions to foster customer loyalty and increase customer lifetime value. 

It’s the online version of your favorite deli handing you your order before you even place it. It means getting to know your customers in such a way that you can serve them best.

3 Types of One-to-One Marketing

Building a marketing strategy that includes one-to-one marketing takes several different forms depending on the channel and your goals. Consider each type a different tool in your toolbox — you’ll need all three to make one-to-one marketing a reality for your business.

1. Personalization

It’s the personal touch.

This goes beyond saying “Hi [Name]” in your emails. Personalized marketing means sending the most relevant communications in real-time — triggering emails based on behavior, retargeting customers who browse on your website with ads, or providing recommendations on similar products or articles based on what they’ve already looked at. 

2. Customization

Customization gives the power back to your customer. Giving your customers a choice on how they want to hear from you builds trust. This can be as simple as a double opt-in process, an easily accessible subscription page for customers to choose their cadence, or offering flexible pay-as-you-go plans. 

This level of freedom can make things complicated logistically, but it allows your customers to get exactly what they want out of your product and communications and puts them in the driver’s seat.

3. Segmentation

Segmentation takes personalized marketing one step further by creating different groups of your customers, prospects, and partners and communicating with them differently. You might create multiple versions of an email campaign based on what data you have about your customers — for instance, promoting a sale on sandals for customers who have ordered them before — so that everything they receive is relevant and targeted.

3 One-to-One Marketing Steps

 Getting started with one-to-one marketing is easy. Here’s how:

1. Build the Right Databases

The foundation of any one-to-one marketing program is customer data. You need to understand your customers so well that you know exactly what they need, when they need it. If you want to build out real-time communications, you’ll need to build out your databases first.

If the price drops on a product, or you’re restocked, you should know exactly which customers want that information based on browsing data or other propensity to buy models. The first step should be to understand what data you have available and how you can use it to your advantage.

And don’t worry—qualitative customer data counts, too. It adds a story to the numbers you’re already seeing. Sit in on sales calls, run a survey, or sift through your customer support tickets to get a window into your typical customer’s mind.

2. Create Customer Profiles

Marketers talk a lot about personas, but to make one-to-one marketing work, you have to build segments of “one.” Drill down to the customer level.

Data can tell you a lot about any given customer. Create a unique profile for all of your prospects and customers using:

  • Browsing Data: What pages do they visit? For how long?
  • Purchase Data: Have they already purchased from you? If so, what did they buy? Are there patterns?
  • Abandoned Cart Data: How likely are they to make a purchase or are they serial shoppers?
  • Customer Support/Sales Touchpoint Data: Have they spoken with someone on your team before?
  • NPS Data: How satisfied are they with your business?

You need to know more than their title and demographics, but exactly where they are in the funnel and what they need to get them to click that “Buy” button again and again.

3. Design the Golden Customer Journey

Once you’ve built out your customer profiles (no small feat!), look for patterns to the smoothest possible customer journey. Is there something all of your repeat customers have in common? For example, you may find that the average person who signs up for your subscription service reads three blog articles before doing so. 

Boom. Now you know what lever to pull.

The average e-commerce shopping cart abandonment rate is 65.57%. That means the majority of your customers will likely abandon their cart at least once, from sticker shock, distraction, or reviews. Triggering an email to address their concerns and remind them of their purchase smooths out the journey and makes it easier for your customers to buy from you.

The easier you make it for your customers to buy from you, the more money you’ll make. And that starts with data.

5 One-to-One Marketing Examples

One-to-one marketing can take different forms based on your organization’s goals. Here are five examples to get you started:

1. Personalized Emails

With email, personalization isn’t just important — it’s expected. Start with basic information your customers already give you during the signup or purchase process, like their birthday, zip code, or whether they’re interested in men’s and women’s clothing.

Abandoned cart emails don’t have to involve a literal cart. Your prospects won’t convert unless they’re spending time on your site or in your product, and this email from Netflix is a great example of increasing engagement (not to mention a slick design, too).


The foundation of personalization is data. So if you don’t know, just ask! This email from Suiteness offers an in-email survey that provides recommendations based on what people say they like. You can try this tactic with product categories, a pain point your product solves, or even about your brand itself.


Your customers may be at different places in your funnel, and that’s ok. Beating the buy-buy-buy drum won’t make them convert any faster. This email from Zillow subtly acknowledges that buying a house is a big decision while making it easy to log back in and keep browsing:


The best kinds of personalized emails are relevant and helpful. This guide to San Francisco from Airbnb — which makes sense, since Airbnb knows whether or not a customer has booked a trip to a certain place — offers a sample itinerary filled with upsells that don’t feel pushy. It’s inspiring, exciting, and just makes sense.


2. Personalized Text Messages

No one goes anywhere without their phone nowadays — it’s an extension of self, so it doesn’t get more personal than that. SMS marketing is still relatively new, but it grew nearly 200% between 2015 and 2017. Despite the rise in messaging apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, the vast majority of smartphone users (94%) are still sending texts. To receive updates, discounts, reminders, and alerts, consumers opt-in using a distinct shortcode, similar to subscribing to an email list. 

SMS can be a super powerful retention tool. It goes back to making it as easy as possible for customers to buy from you. I love it when my doctor sends me reminders like this rather than calling me, since I can respond right away without disrupting the flow of my day:

With SMS, you need to send hyper-relevant messages. I received this when walking by the store:

With SMS, though, personalization is key. This is a great way to keep the momentum going after an order:

SMS limits text messages to 160 characters, so you’ll need to get your message across straightaway. For more on how to build out a successful SMS program, click here.

3. Triggered Emails

Email is already one of the highest performing channels in a marketer’s arsenal, but triggered emails go above and beyond:

  • Triggered emails generate 24x more revenue per send. 
  • They also see more than double the engagement, with 2.2X open rates, 2.1X click rates and 4.1X conversion rates compared to batch-and-blast emails on average. 
  • And triggered emails have lasting impact. Visitors who receive triggered emails engage sometimes months after an email has been sent. Roughly 18% to 23% of engagement happens after the 24-hour mark.

Automating your email strategy based on the customer journey delivers relevant information to your customer at the right time. You can trigger your email based on:

  • Time or date, to say happy birthday, for example


  • On-site events, like abandoning a cart


  • Customer actions, sending shipping or order confirmations


  • Customer success activity, to set wait time expectations or close a ticket


One thing to remember, though: Just because they’re triggered emails doesn’t mean they’re “set it and forget it.” Continue to test and iterate on these emails by tracking opens, clicks, and other basic email metrics. You should also be tracking site visits, conversions, new customers, and revenue from these emails to help you optimize your efforts and best engage your recipient list.

4. Recommended Products

Increasing customer lifetime value means you’ll need to encourage purchases again and again. The best way to do that is listening to your customers through the purchases they’re already making.

Amazon is the king of this one-to-one marketing approach. Everywhere you look on the site you can find recommendations based on your browsing history, purchases, reviews, and more. 

Can you tell we’re doing some DIY projects right now? ^

But it doesn’t have to be product-related. Help your prospects higher up in the funnel by guiding them through your site. The more time they spend on your site, the more likely they’ll purchase. If you’ve ever fallen into a YouTube hole, you know how easy it is to just keep going.

You can provide recommendations in your emails, too. OpenTable does this on a monthly basis:


Similar to a restock email for retail, Spotify sends alerts whenever new songs or albums are available for music in heavy rotation:

One thing these all have in common? Easing decision paralysis. There are thousands of products on Amazon, videos on YouTube, restaurants in Chicago, and songs on Spotify. These emails help guide the customer to what matters to them rather than sifting through all that content.

5. Customer Loyalty Programs

Your most valuable customers are the ones who buy your products again and again. It costs about 5-25x more to acquire new customers than to upsell existing ones, according to Harvard Business Review. And existing customers spend up to 67% more. This makes one-to-one marketing for customers incredibly important. 

Reward that loyalty by building out a membership program. Not only does this build a community around your brand, creating a sense of exclusivity and excitement, it also gives you the opportunity to collect even more data about your customers. It’s a virtuous cycle so you can keep providing them with a relevant, personalized experience. 

These are your super-users, so make them feel special.

Sephora does a great job of this with their Beauty Insider program. The more you spend, the more points you receive you can trade in for rewards. Why shop anywhere else, even if you can get the same beauty products at Ulta or Amazon? 

Up to 84% of people told Shopify they’d be more likely to stick with a certain retail brand because of a customer loyalty program. For $20, you can get lifetime access at REI  to 10% off and other specific deals. Plus, it’s strong brand rooted in clear values — this is on their homepage, before you can see any jackets, sleeping bags, or other gear:

Loyalty programs work really well in your emails, too. You can celebrate great milestones:


And encourage a deeper relationship with your brand, like reading articles, visiting a forum, leaving a review, following you on social media, or in Peloton’s case, setting clear and achievable goals for your year:


Now its your turn

Whew, that was a lot of information. We hope you enjoyed taking all of that in and learning more about why one-to-one marketing is so pivotal to creating long-lasting, trusting relationships with both customers and prospects. If you’d like to learn more about how you can get your one-to-one marketing campaigns up and running today, please feel free to reach out to one of us.


Author Profile Image

Elliott Moore

Elliott Moore is BounceX’s Senior Marketing Manager, overseeing content, PR, partner marketing, and social media. Elliott brings over 5 years of MarTech experience working for firms in New York, San Francisco, and Helsinki, across product, sales, and content teams to bring the most actionable marketing experiences to his clients. A resident of Brooklyn, Elliott spends his free time running, visiting local shops, or testing new IPAs with friends.