The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Personalization Marketing Brand Strategy E-commerce

Personalization is the future of commerce – so why are brands still lagging?

By Steven Denekas, Global senior vice president of creative



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Find out more

January 30, 2024 | 7 min read

Steven Denekas and Alexis Stepanek of Dept investigate the gap between personalization’s potential and its reality for commerce brands.

A customized bicycle, made to look like a watermelon, in a colorful setting

Personalization is the future of e-commerce. But how far off is the future? / Cristina Gottardi via Unsplash

The issues facing e-commerce businesses every day are deep. Their world is more complex than ever, and there’s no sign of it slowing down. Daily dealings include complex organizational structures, hard-to-identify insights, legacy tech, meetings-upon-meetings, and struggles to gain consensus.

Each one of these issues is the enemy of progress.

Customers are becoming increasingly frustrated too. 73% of retail customers use multiple shopping channels, researching what fits their needs best. They struggle with a lack of personalization, clunky experience design, lack of relevance, and inefficient search.

Each one of these issues is the enemy of conversion.

But as 76% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that personalize, we know that making stronger connections with your customers leads to loyalty. And while ‘personalization’ has historically been an empty buzzword, generative AI and machine learning might be the magic wands to create genuinely meaningful experiences, catered to each individual visitor. That means tailoring messaging to their needs and showing how products provide value to their unique lives.

Despite this tantalizing promise, traditional ways of thinking are still holding brands back from being able to deliver on this amazing opportunity. This comes down to three hard truths:

1. Your brand isn’t yours anymore

Consumers are taking to social platforms with their own reviews, describing how your product brings value to their lives. They are creating content around your brand – content that they want to interact with.

For brands, it’s not about losing brand identity; it’s about making it more relevant to each individual. With a strong brand framework, brands can align customer interests and needs with their brand culture.

2. Humans are dynamic

People can’t be grouped into boxes (despite most marketing teams’ attempts).

Brands need to embrace all the different facets of their customers. When we better understand individual customers, we can align the potential emotional value of products and showcase what they can bring to the person’s life, instead of just listing generic product features. The result is a beautiful user experience, one that actually answers the questions your customers are hoping to answer as they do their research.

3. You’re chasing technology

Companies are often focused on jumping on the next new thing, not understanding exactly what outcomes they desire. Technology needs to be intentional. By simply building the infrastructure that curates content that the customer is looking for, brands can offer the personalized interaction that customers want.

But where can you start? And who can you trust?

Start with technology that understands

Our new reality is clear: AI is personalization. When technology understands consumers, we can make meaningful connections and adapt to our customers over time.

Over the coming years, we’ll see the evolution of experiences that are bespoke to each customer who lands on your brand's platform. Not one experience will be the same. Potentially similar, but not the same.

With AI, personalization never has to force customers through a fragmented journey again. They won't have to visit multiple sites to find information. They won’t have to see ads for a shoe they already bought.

Support your brand with intelligent systems

Generative AI is the differentiator in personalization. It has given technology language. The ability to interact with you, react to your needs, and evolve with you.

Here’s how: large language models provide insight based on behaviors and patterns – things like interests, activities, levels of engagement, and culture. On top of that, your brand and product data pairs with an individual personality – brand guidelines, brand messaging, product inventory, and visual libraries. These can then combine with a branded large language to power a personalized experience through fluid Q&A, assistants, recommendations, SEO pages, semantic search, and entity extraction.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

Where do we go from here?

Personalization (and specifically AI) will bring everything together into one place all the stories your world creates. Whether it comes from the CEO, a campaign, or from your customers’ YouTube channels, it will all exist together.

By simply building the infrastructure that curates the content that your customer is looking for, you offer the same personal interaction that customers often get from a physical retail store in the digital space.

Your challenge as a brand is to make your customers belong in the world that you’ve built. The newest generations are hungry for the truth, that sense of reality, that honest no-bullshit brand that understands them. And guess what?

AI isn’t just about efficiency and speed; it’s about giving your world a language that serves up exactly what your customers want when they want it. AI understands.

Personalization Marketing Brand Strategy E-commerce

Content by The Drum Network member:


DEPT® is a pioneering technology and marketing services company that creates end-to-end digital experiences for brands such as Google, KFC, Philips, Audi, Twitch,...

Find out more

More from Personalization Marketing

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +