More than 50 years since it was first invented, the term ‘the four Ps’ remains synonymous with the core principles of marketing. The most successful brand strategies still rely on the effective understanding of the traditional marketing components of product, place, price and promotion.

But in the modern era, where the rapid advancement of online technologies is giving businesses access to an increasing depth of customer data, a fifth ‘P’ is transforming the marketing mix and providing organisations with the opportunity to take customer communications to new levels. ‘Personalisation’, the ability to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time – whatever the channel – has become de rigueur for marketers the world over.

Tools, technologies and techniques that enable businesses to respond to individual behaviours and tailor content accordingly are providing companies with increased opportunities to reach the utopia of the personalised web experience – yet evidence suggests that few companies are fully maximising them? Personalisation offers great promise. But at present, it’s more rhetoric than reality.

A 2013 report from Monetate & eConsultancy that looked at the realities of online personalisation revealed that whilst 94% of businesses believe that personalisation is ‘critical to current and future success’, more than half of companies concede that they are failing to deliver personalised digital experiences. According to the report, businesses that are providing personalised digital journeys are reporting an average increase in sales of 19%. Yet despite this, only 4% claim to be offering ‘very personalised’ online services.

So how can companies progress? By harnessing the power of online data and progressive profiling. Data that helps define the unique characteristics of an individual can be collected via registration forms, via Social Login, and via other methods such as polls, surveys, campaign interaction and checkout behavior. And as consumers grow tired of receiving untargeted communications and irrelevant content, an increasing number are happy to share personal information in the hope that it will lead to a more personalised relationship with brands.

So the opportunity for one-to-one marketing is not only there, it’s welcomed by consumers. While some companies invest heavily in sophisticated technologies to track consumer activity ¬– only to find that they still don’t know how to use the data to personalise content in real time – others are finding that solutions such as Social Login offer a simple, efficient and cost-effective alternative.

If online businesses really do want to reach the utopia of personalised web experiences, they must begin to leverage technology sensibly. It’s time to embrace the fifth ‘P’.