When’s the last time a pop-up ad filled your screen and you actually paid attention before closing the window as quickly as possible? For me, it was probably 2003 when my biggest digital ventures involved MySpace, before I could tell a pop-up from a Pop Tart. Marketing has come leaps and bounds from the early days, getting more and more targeted. This new strategy of personalized online shopping is providing serious benefits to a company’s bottom line, and can improve marketing ROI by 15-20%, according to a recent McKinsey study.

But only 6% of senior marketers identify their personalization strategies as “advanced”, according to a recent study by Monetate.

Consumers don’t just appreciate personalized marketing experiences — they expect nothing less. In fact, brands risk alienating customers, especially millennials, by not making content personally relevant (ahem, fixed pop-up ads). It’s intuitive and more attentive to the customer’s needs—something you find in-store but is oftentimes missing from the digital commerce experience. Marketers still have a long way to go before meeting consumers’ expectations of personalized marketing across devices and channels.

In the meantime, there are a few digital leaders paving the way for personalized, relevant consumer experiences. Amazon’s recommendation engine sets the standard in the “discovery” game. It relies on algorithms to suggest items to the consumer based on several elements: a user’s purchase history, items in their shopping cart, items they’ve rated and liked, and what other customers have viewed and purchased. This information comes together to suggest items to the consumer that they otherwise might not come across in their shopping. The suggestion algorithm isn’t just ultra-convenient for the shopper; it’s estimated that 35% of all sales are generated by the recommendation engine.

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In a completely different digital commerce experience, Netflix has found a way to personalize the subscriber experience despite having 75 million subscribers in over 190 countries. Netflix excels at mixing in obvious recommendations (Because you watched “Jaws” you’ll like “The Perfect Storm”) with obscure-yet-intriguing suggestions (Movies with a strong female lead) in order to offer the viewer content they’re likely to enjoy. Netflix faces the opposite problem of most brands today: making sure to not over-personalize, so as to avoid pigeonholing its subscribers to one genre of film/TV. The personalization algorithm resets every 24 hours to provide new and engaging content to every single user.

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While some mega-brands are topping the personalization leaderboard, most brands have major steps to take before they come close to providing a relevant consumer experience. In the not-too-distant future, marketing personalization will be a “must have,” rather than a “nice to have” strategy for marketers. Don’t let your competitors catch the personalization wave before you do.

Interested in making your customer experience more personal? Curalate’s discovery driven commerce platform helps make sure that when customers discover your brand off site, they’ll be met with the same imagery and context on site. Request a demo to learn more.

Leveraging user-generated content from fans and micro-influencers makes your content feel more personal. Popular shoe brand Sperry leveraged Curalate to make fan photos from Instagram shoppable and used them to reduce friction in the buying journey. Read the Sperry case study here.