Marketing during a crisis

Re-opening & Beyond: 5 Personalization Strategies for retailers

4 ways brands are using consumer data for better personalization and tighter targeting

Retailers around the world are adapting to a new economic reality brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as longer-term industry changes like the growth of ecommerce, evolving consumer behavior and increasing demands for personalized experiences. As retailers reopen stores amidst uncertainty, many brands are exploring innovative ways to apply data-savvy strategies to attract new customers, build loyalty and drive repeat purchases, while also working to maximize their marketing dollars.

Here are 4 ways brands are using consumer data for better personalization and tighter targeting that lead to more effective marketing spends and higher conversion rates.

1. Go local with geo targeting

Our current reality has altered how consumers shop locally. More than ever, consumers are counting on retailers to provide up-to-date information about the status of stores, new safety measures, and when and where they will be able to connect with their favorite brands in person. In addition, since COVID-related restrictions can vary by state (and in some cases by county), geo targeting and regional messaging are even more crucial for retailers looking to provide real-time, relevant information for shoppers during recovery.

Brand example: West Marine

Water sports retailer, West Marine, created personalized emails that dynamically populate content and status updates based on the subscriber’s closest store. With the subject line: Your Local West Marine Store Status, the email highlighted what to expect as local stores opened. Consumers located in an area where retail locations have not yet opened (as pictured below) were encouraged to order from the website.

Brand example: Ann Taylor

Ann Taylor took the opportunity to request important location data from subscribers to ensure they will receive locally relevant store updates.

2. Demographic targeting

Even as states begin to lift restrictions, some consumers may be reluctant to get back to their pre-COVID 19 shopping habits. Demographic segmentation can help retailers hit the right note with different sets of consumers. For example, young consumers may be the first to resume in-person shopping for non-essential items, while older populations may be more hesitant. Retailers can target younger consumers with in-store offers or communicate how they’ve improved the online shopping experience to older consumers who may be more reluctant to return to stores.

Brand example: REI

Senior citizens control over 70% of disposable income in the United States, but less than 5% of advertising is directed towards them.i  Retailers who neglect older generations may be doing themselves a disservice. Small changes to images and content can make a big impact on seniors who are too frequently ignored by marketers. Brands can implement demographic personalization in their email, web, paid social, and display campaigns to customize their creative and messaging based on the demographic attributes of the specific audience member. This ad from REI, part of their Force of Nature initiative which shares stories from women who are frequently under-represented in the outdoor space, features a striking image of an older outdoor enthusiast, a great strategy for the brand to connect with older audiences.

3. Behavioral targeting

One thing retailers can do in our current reality is to expect the unexpected. Our habits have changed so quickly and dramatically during the pandemic, that advanced machine learning systems trained on normal human behavior are being thrown off by the new choices we’re making. ii  To stay on top of the evolving needs of their customers, savvy retailers can use behavioral data – such as web activity, transactional data, and email/campaign engagement metrics – to understand how their customers’ shopping habits have changed and reach them with relevant offers and products. For example, a brand could access consumer transaction data to analyze consumers’ buying history in the past 2-3 months to understand recent shopping trends or compare transactions made last year vs. this year to track how consumer needs have changed.

Brand example: Beauty Bay

According to the Baymard Institute, the average online shopping cart abandonment rate hovers around 70%.iii  Now, shoppers have more on their minds than ever, so it’s no surprise that they may step away in the middle of a purchase. Cart abandonment emails – which are triggered when a consumer abandons the check-out process – can be low-hanging fruit for retailers and have been shown to recuperate around 20% of lost sales went sent within an hour of cart abandonment.iv  In this example, online cosmetics company, Beauty Bay, uses scarcity to grab attention – a strategy that can be particularly effective during a time when availability of products has been unpredictable.

4. Psychographic targeting

Retailers can use data collected from multiple sources – such as transactions, surveys, web, and third-party data providers like Data Axle, to build psychographic profiles that pinpoint consumers’ values and interests. While consumer behaviors may have changed recently, their interests and values tend to have more staying power, so retailers who already have this analysis in hand are well suited to continue to extract value from this type of personalization.

Brand example: Anthropologie

During the pandemic, Anthropologie has offered Zoom events to their customers and fans to keep them engaged. An analysis of their customers’ psychographic attributes could help the brand understand which topics and events align with their audience’s values to identify which content would most inspire them.

5. Life Event Targeting

Even during uncertain times, life’s big events happen – people become parents, buy homes, and (yep!) get married. Retailers with products (or registries) for these milestones can use specialized life event data to connect with consumers who are looking for products during a life event.

Brand example: Crate & Barrel

To connect with consumers who are ready to open a new wedding or baby registry, Crate & Barrel could use life event data to identify expectant parents and new homeowners and deliver digital or direct mail campaigns that speak to these consumers’ upcoming needs.


In a Data Axle survey, more than half of shoppers (53%) say they would pay more to purchase from a retailer they’re loyal to. As the retail industry grapples with dramatic changes, the key to building deep brand loyalty is personalized messaging that speaks to consumers and demonstrates an understanding of their needs and challenges. Retailers who make the most of data to improve their targeting and deliver exceptional customer experiences can set themselves apart from the competition and weather the storm.



Elyse DeVries
Content Specialist

Elyse DeVries is a Content Specialist at Data Axle where she is responsible for developing content to educate and inspire marketers. For the past decade, she has been sharing her passion for marketing technology as a digital marketer in the B2B software and services industry. When she isn’t creating content, Elyse enjoys exploring the forests, mountains, and seaside towns of the Pacific Northwest and traveling overseas with her husband and daughter. A proud SciFi & Fantasy nerd, Elyse spends her free time gaming, reading geeky novels, and seeing each and every Marvel movie on opening day.