With warm weather arriving, the ice cream trucks that pop on every corner here in New York have it pretty easy when it comes to offering consumers value: All it takes is a nice cone of vanilla—maybe with some sprinkles thrown in—to make people happy.

But where vanilla might be all the flavor people need to get excited about ice cream, don’t assume the same holds true for other businesses. When it comes to selling your products online, be warned: sticking to vanilla won’t get you anywhere.

You know what I mean when I say vanilla. You’ve been to these ecommerce sites, and you haven’t been inspired. They’re not dynamic, segmented or personalized; they simply “are”.


About a month ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at a very unique virtual event, The Personalization Revolution. In 60 minutes, 60 speakers spoke for 60 seconds each on various topics on website personalization—a hot topic in the online marketing world right now. After listening to the variety of expert opinions and best practices, I got to thinking: Why would any marketer today NOT employ personalization techniques to attract and retain consumers?

I’m not talking about inserting someone’s first name into an email (Hi Debbie!)—we all understand that companies have at least grasped Excel Best Practices 101. I’m talking about truly knowing your consumers on the individual level and providing that experience across all channels, in real time—starting with your website.

It hasn’t been easy for every digital brand to jump on the personalization bandwagon, as easily-integrated, real-time solutions were hardly the norm until recent years. But technology has moved forward, as it always does, and the potential to be impactful with real-time personalized marketing is now a reality.

Not only is the web responsible for the strongest growth in recent sales, but it’s also partly responsible for making customers more demanding—and more fickle—than ever. Sure, tried-and-true marketing practices still work at some level, but these days, brands have about seven seconds to capture consumers’ attention with their websites. And even after brands master the basics of capturing consumer attention, retaining their loyalty is a constant challenge in a very noisy marketplace.

The real trick for retaining consumer interest lies in being able scoop out and serve up (non-vanilla) relevant, personalized content and offers for each individual who comes in contact with your brand.

By providing each consumer with a unique experience—and one that helps you achieve your business goals—whether through up-selling, cross-selling, offering more products per person or being their go-to retailer, you have ultimately provided a more relevant experience, regardless of prices or competitor promotions.