Why Context Is Key to Effective Personalisation

When it comes to personalisation, context is key. Context stops personalisation from being creepy (or in some cases, outright dumb).

Get it right and you stand a good chance of engaging your audience. Miss the mark and you’ll shatter the illusion that you are communicating with individual customers one-on-one.

In this blog post, we explore how to use contextual relevance to take your personalisation strategy to the next level.


Why does context matter?

How persuasive would a customer find an email that uses their first name but contains an irrelevant offer?

It might grab their attention initially. But it probably wouldn’t interest them enough to click through.

Compare this to an email which offers them a discount on items they left in their basket earlier that day. The chances are this one would be more likely to earn their click.

The first example makes use of basic demographic personalisation but does not consider context.

The second takes personalisation to the next level. It makes use of real-time behavioural data to ensure the message is contextually relevant to the recipient.

Contextual relevance improves engagement, drives conversions, and—ultimately—increases revenue.


When context goes wrong

In the age of Twitter, when brands fail to get context right, hilarity ensues. Even the big players in eCommerce can get it wrong, as the Tweet below reveals.

Here, Amazon have personalised based on a past purchase. As is painfully apparent, personalise for this dimension alone, and you risk a major context fail!

To avoid this, think about the context of the product. If your product is only likely to be bought once (like a toilet seat), don’t waste your efforts trying to encourage a repeat purchase.


How to get customer context right

You need to consider both product and customer context in order for personalisation to be effective.

Customer context includes:


Basic demographics like age or marital status may rule in or out certain products. Make sure you consider this to ensure the product you promote to the customer is relevant.


Where someone is based may influence which offers are relevant. Some may be specific to certain stores.

Current activity

Is a person likely to be commuting, working or relaxing when they receive your message?

A person’s activity can affect their buying intentions. Getting this aspect of context right enables you to capitalise on times when a customer is more open to buying.

Time of day, day of week

Mood and buying intentions may change throughout the week. Consider this and frame messaging accordingly.

For example, offer them a discount to get them through the Monday blues with a cheeky purchase.


Customers may buy different sorts of products or spend in different patterns depending on the season.

Check your seasonal sales data to see what sells best in each season and use this to personalise offers.


Personalising your website according to real-time weather behaviour is a great way to ensure your promoting relevant products. If you’re a fashion retailer, you could have ready to go promotions based on an unexpected spell of sunny weather.


Weather can also shape how you promote the same products. A breakdown cover provider is essentially selling the same product all year round. But by using real-time weather data, they could have a library of relevant content to reflect the weather outside. 

Further reading: Weather-based Personalisation: An Untapped Opportunity for Retail and Travel

Customer journey position

Customers may respond differently to offers depending on their stage in the customer journey.

For example, a hesitant first-time buyer may be receptive to a discount. Whereas a VIP might respond well to product recommendations.


It is important to ensure your tone reflects the customer’s level of satisfaction. Coming on strong with a flurry of offers may seem off if they have just made a complaint.


How to get product context right

As our toilet seat example shows, product context is crucial if you want to personalise effectively.

The elements of product context to consider include:


Consider what motivates someone to buy the product and frame your messaging accordingly.

Is it a household essential? Or is it something they don’t actually need but are dying to add to their wardrobe?


Think about the price of the product and how this fits with the way your customers spend money.

They may be happy making a series of small purchases throughout the month, but only splash out on high ticket items on payday or a couple of times a year. 

High ticket items like TVs, jewellery and electronics are not bought with the same frequency as consumable products like makeup or health supplements.

The average consumer isn’t likely to be able to splash out on many expensive items in the same month. Attempting to do post-purchase upsells or poorly timed replenishment campaigns on high ticket items might come across as inconsiderate.

Frequency of purchase

Work out how often an item is likely to be bought.

For example, if you sold whey protein powder you might expect that the average customer uses 4 scoops (120g) each week.

A quick calculation would tell us that the average person goes through your 2.5kg bag of protein powder in just over 20 weeks.

So setting up a replenishment email to trigger after 17 weeks would give the customer a timely reminder that they need to restock.




This is just one example of how personalisation creates a win-win between you and your customers. You secure a repeat purchase and the customer doesn’t go without their protein. Mad gains all round.

How the product is used

Is the product something that gets used as soon as it is out of the packet?

Usage determines when it is most relevant to send certain message, like review requests. Asking someone to review a product with a long lifespan moments after they’ve purchased isn’t going to make sense.


For example, if someone has bought a DVD box set of ’24’, don’t ask them for a review after 12 hours! It may seem like a silly example, but it is worth thinking about the right time to re-engage customers who have made recent purchases.

Likelihood of repeat purchase

Is this product something that someone buys more than once?

Think back to Amazon’s toilet seat context fail. Only encourage repeat purchase on things someone might need more than one of.


Contextual relevance is a one of the key principles of intelligent personalisation. It’s what moves your strategy beyond the basics and helps you to influence consumer behaviour. It also helps you create more win-wins between you and your customer, which will ultimately create loyalty and advocacy.

Context may take some consideration but get it right and you will reap the rewards. And not getting it right can result in risks beyond trying to sell multiple toilet seats!

To implement intelligent personalisation, you need the right technology in place. To see our personalisation platform in action, book a demo via the button below.

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