Personalized messaging isn’t just for greeting cards. Marketers need to be aware that consumers today are sick and tired of the generic advertisements being shoved in their faces. The only way to gain their attention and have them turn that ad filter off is to treat them like the individuals that they are. Meaning, you need to present them with content that appeals specifically to them.

When it comes to personal tastes, food is about as personal as you can get. As Brian Witlin, COO of Yummly, says, you can take the same people, with the same demographics — same age, same neighborhood, same profession — but their eating habits are dramatically different.

As a truly personalized food discovery platform, Yummly connects people with recipes and other food content that matches their personal and dietary tastes. Think the Pandora or Netflix of food. With a comprehensive onboarding process, and the clickable Yum button on recipes, Yummly learns about the foods you love, and those you hate (you can’t stand mushrooms), your dietary needs, or allergies (strawberries make you break out in hives), favorite cuisines — and knows that you’re a fiend for anything hot and fiery.

“Email is a big deal to us because we actually go through the painstaking task of sending personalized emails to millions of users every single week,” says Witlin. “They can be based off of your recent Yums, or maybe something that’s really popular in your area. Or seasonality —  if you’re in New York City, and it’s really cold, you may get soup recipes, all tailored to your tastes.”

Sounds like a no brainer, right? Well, not exactly. Many marketers are still struggling to curate relevant content for their audience. Or, sometimes they go too far by invading their audience’s personal space.

“Two mistakes come immediately to mind,” says Witlin. “One of them is saying you’re going to do personalization and not follow through. So you have people fill things out or share information, but they don’t get immediate results that make it clear that what they just shared has any benefit to them.”

“Second thing, some personalization can be really powerful, but it could air on the side of being creepy. You don’t want to be so predictive that it could scare people. Let’s say you had a location app and it sends a message saying, ‘We see you’re at home. Why don’t you try watching this show tonight?’ Someone could freak out. This app knows I’m at home!”

Witlin suggests being subtle when using a consumer’s location history to advertise directly, and careful when it comes to sensitive issues. He cited the infamous Target story where the iconic retailer emailed diaper deals to a teenaged customer based on the likelihood of her being pregnant, while her father, unaware of the pregnancy, well, reacted badly to it. In that case, Target was too involved with that client’s life to the point where they knew more than actual family members.

On the subject of what companies are doing right with email personalization, Witlin discussed Yummly’s own success stories.

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“When we started to connect email personalization with deep links, and as we continue to optimize, we’re finding our email retention efforts are a big portion of our returning users,” Witlin said. ‘We looked at the days of the week that have the highest amount of usage, and we started figuring out which days people were actually planning based upon shopping list usage. We set the cadence of different emails based upon where people were in the week in their planning cycle — what they would plan for the day or next few days — and we saw significant increase in usage.”

In addition to these quantitative results, Witlin’s also pretty stoked about the anecdotal success stories he sees from Yummly’s personalization efforts

“We actually get thank-you notes for emails. People will say things like ‘I was the hero at the potluck,’ or ‘My family loved the meal you suggested.’ The fact that it’s actually useful to people and not just more clutter for their inbox…I see that as a huge win.”

Join us for this webinar and get the inside track on what it takes to turn your personalization efforts into undying customer loyalty.

By attending this webinar you’ll:

  • Learn how to collect the right customer identity data
  • Benchmark according to what your peers are doing today
  • Objectives most commonly associated with personalization
  • Best practices for engaging customers across channels
  • Where in the funnel personalization can help most


Andrew Jones, analyst, VB Insight, VentureBeat

Brian Witlin, COO, Yummly

Cate Twohill, Senior Director and managing partner of CRM services, WGBH Boston


Wendy Schuchart, moderator, VentureBeat

This webinar is sponsored by Boomtrain.