Imagine that you are shopping at a department store and you ask a salesperson for men’s summer sandals and he takes you to the main entrance and drops you off. Your reaction?

There’s a good chance you’re frustrated. You probably think less of the store for its poor service. You’re probably going to leave without buying any shoes. You might even tell your friends and family not to shop there.

As far-fetched as it seems, that happens online all the time. Have you ever clicked on an email or banner ad about a specific item, like running shoes, only to be taken to the homepage? You didn’t want to go to the homepage; you wanted to go to running shoes. This is a missed opportunity for companies to give their customers relevant, personalized experiences. This is lost revenue.

With today’s technology, the online experience can be personalized and relevant. Companies large and small can gather customer feedback through online behavior and data retrieved from multiple digital channels, including mobile devices and social networking sites.

If optimizing consumers’ online experience through personalization and offering them what they’re looking for seems like common sense, why are companies experiencing 25 percent, 35 percent or even greater drop-off rates on their front pages?

Here are three rules to help keep personalization from getting lost in the marketing shuffle:

Create a silo-free zone:, which sells outdoor gear, relies heavily on search campaigns to drive revenue. The search team noticed spikes in their site’s click-through rates every two weeks. As it turned out, their marketing counterparts running’s email campaign were sending out emails at those exact times – a fact serendipitously discovered in a marketing staff meeting. So the two groups started working closely together in an effort to coordinate multichannel campaigns and personalize the experience of their visitors. The result was an impressive 20 percent click-through lift.

Silos can happen in the best of companies. To give your customer a personalized experience, campaign leads should provide leverage to each other so customers receive a relevant, coordinated and personal experience when interacting with multiple campaigns from a company.

Test and listen: A large financial services company that provides investment products and services for millions of clients wanted to encourage online visitors to open new investment accounts. While it had a lot of content to rotate onto the home page, the company lacked an approach for determining which content combinations were most effective or what content to serve different visitors based on their individual preferences and behavior on the site.

By targeting and matching content to the interests of online visitors, the company saw a lift in engagement of 250 percent, which lead to a 15 percent increase in new accounts, representing a one-month rise in revenue of over $1 million.

Sending random campaigns to non-specific customers decreases the chances that someone will see an offer that interests them. If you see that customers aren’t responding to a campaign, change it. People respond to personalized, relevant content.

Think bigger and beyond: When can personalization go wrong? Let me tell you about my favorite online book retailer. When I go to the site and get recommendations for books based on my previous interests, I take a look at the suggestions most of the time because they are about topics I am interested in. I ran into a flaw in the system when I bought a baby book for a female family member and thereafter continued to receive baby book suggestions when I returned to the site instead of suggestions based on my earlier interests.

You cannot judge your customer based only on the last time they visited your site. You must look at their overall online behavior to understand what that person wants and what content should be served to them.

Another flaw in personalization is when targeting becomes incestuous. For example, when soccer information is the only thing served to someone who has expressed an interest in soccer. If I am shown only what I’m interested in and never shown anything on the fringes of what I like, that is a big missed opportunity.

Lastly, it’s important to take macro targeting into account. If you only show things that your customers like to buy, you’ll miss out on relevant macro targeting opportunities such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day by not showing content appropriate to those holidays.

The lesson here is that just because you can target at the individual level, doesn’t mean you always should.