There’s no excuse for not inte­grat­ing some basic level of tar­get­ing across your dig­i­tal plat­forms. At the very least, you’ve got the customer’s geolo­ca­tion address—it’s been snow­ing like crazy on the East Coast, so why not serve up a dis­count on snow boots? Or per­haps your cus­tomer authen­ti­cated already, so you know the person’s name, pur­chase his­tory, and maybe some other self-reported pref­er­ence infor­ma­tion. So give your cus­tomer a hearty—and precise—hello.

Cus­tomers are more demand­ing than ever when it comes to rel­e­vance, recog­ni­tion, and per­son­al­iza­tion. Blame—and thank—Amazon, who changed the game for­ever, serv­ing up not only a per­son­al­ized greet­ing but smart, real-time rec­om­men­da­tions based on pur­chases, cur­rent cart con­tents, and the page you’re brows­ing. So maybe you can’t take it quite that far, but one-off tar­get­ing efforts—the “Hello, Kevin!” or the dis­crete ref­er­ences to or align­ments with my West Coast home base—will only take you so far. It’s essen­tial that orga­ni­za­tions look to always-on opti­miza­tion and per­son­al­iza­tion to take their brands, their mar­ket­ing efforts, their cus­tomer engage­ment, and their result­ing ROI to the next level. We’re in the rela­tion­ship era of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, and it’s essen­tial that brands whole-heartedly jump in.

This rela­tion­ship era, com­pounded by the demand for wholly per­sonal con­tent and prod­uct align­ment and deliv­ery, is so crit­i­cal right now that I’ve devoted an in-depth ses­sion to it at Adobe Sum­mit 2014. The break­out, “Trans­form Your Dig­i­tal Strat­egy through Always-On Opti­miza­tion,” will fea­ture one of the lead­ers in per­son­al­iza­tion, Sai Kop­paka, the Divi­sional Vice Pres­i­dent of Cus­tomer Ana­lyt­ics and Opti­miza­tion for Sears. With­out giv­ing away too much, this ses­sion will def­i­nitely be eye-opening for atten­dees. All too often, I hear that an orga­ni­za­tion can’t imple­ment an always-on opti­miza­tion strat­egy because it doesn’t have the ground­work laid to cap­ture and lever­age the essen­tial data. The take­away for the ses­sion, I hope, is that you absolutely can. As dig­i­tal mar­keters and stake­hold­ers, you do, in fact, have that information—and, more­over, you cer­tainly aren’t alone in the strug­gle to make that data work harder when it comes to per­son­al­iza­tion and con­tent alignment.

But back to per­son­al­iza­tion and your busi­ness. Rec­og­niz­ing your cus­tomer is essen­tial in this increas­ingly com­pet­i­tive dig­i­tal land­scape. Three in five con­sumers feel more pos­i­tively about a brand when mar­ket­ing mes­sages are per­son­al­ized. They want to be addressed as unique indi­vid­u­als, and expect rel­e­vance to be at the fore­front of their online shop­ping and content-consumption expe­ri­ences. And they’ll reward you hand­somely if you can meet those demands. More than half of con­sumers indi­cated they’re more likely to buy when a brand effec­tively per­son­al­izes dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions. That num­ber increases to 65 per­cent for the all-important 18–34 year old segment.

Although one-off tar­get­ing typ­i­cally taps into a sim­ple per­son­al­iza­tion solu­tion based on expressed or inferred information—they log in and you’ve got their name, you know their IP address, or you’re adjust­ing real-time rec­om­men­da­tions and add-ons to cart contents—by com­bin­ing test­ing, tar­get­ing, and con­tent man­age­ment tech­nolo­gies, you can effec­tively and effi­ciently power con­tin­u­ous opti­miza­tion and per­son­al­iza­tion across your dig­i­tal plat­forms. That means not just greet­ing me at the door, but walk­ing me through the entire store, and point­ing out what you know I’ll love and maybe even get­ting it down from the shelf for me. It’s some­thing Adobe Tar­get and Adobe Expe­ri­ence Man­ager have been doing, alone and in tan­dem, with much suc­cess across vir­tu­ally every indus­try. And it’s some­thing dig­i­tal mar­keters shouldn’t be afraid to imple­ment within their own orga­ni­za­tions. Once devel­oped, those unique pro­files will have a place—likely in the driver’s seat—in your mar­ket­ing and sales plans, from acqui­si­tion to loy­alty, and across every cam­paign you roll out.

I like to encour­age our part­ners to think about them­selves as cus­tomers. It’s a good exercise—think about your­self. You buy things. You search for con­tent and prod­ucts online. You get pro­mo­tional emails and do or don’t click through. You for­ward infor­ma­tion and rec­om­men­da­tions to friends. When you get a mes­sage that is spot-on for you—a favorite restau­rant, a top­i­cal arti­cle, a dis­count for some­thing you’ve been itch­ing to buy—how do you feel? There’s a jolt, right? I know when I get some­thing that’s exactly right, I can’t wait to click through, check it out, read it, or even buy it. And I’ll likely stop what I’m doing to con­vert. What’s more, that site, brand, or com­pany usu­ally rises right to the top of my list. They clearly value me, they clearly under­stand me, and they clearly get it. This is a brand for me.

The flip side of that? A rec­om­men­da­tion, email, or social call-out that’s so far gone or, worse, bor­der­line offen­sive. I love the exam­ples of Face­book adver­tis­ing tied to life events—you had a baby, so you’re enter­ing an era of dia­per dis­counts (score!) and diet pills (stop judg­ing me, Face­book). Or my sta­tus changes to “engaged” and it’s suit rentals (OK!) and adult acne treat­ments (do you see my pic­tures?!). Need­less to say, it’s the oppo­site impact.

With just sec­onds to make that crit­i­cal first impression—or take an exist­ing cus­tomer from brows­ing to buying—making that imme­di­ate, pos­i­tive con­nec­tion is essen­tial. Say hi (by name) and get to it—fast. We’ll cover that and lots more at the Sum­mit ses­sion.

Although I hope to see you at Sum­mit keep in mind that, whether or not you’re attend­ing, now’s the time to get started on your own always-on per­son­al­iza­tion and opti­miza­tion efforts. There’s no doubt where the indus­try is going in 2014 and beyond—one-fifth of mar­keters agree that cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is the sin­gle most excit­ing oppor­tu­nity this year, with tar­get­ing and per­son­al­iza­tion iden­ti­fied as the top pri­or­ity, beat­ing out areas like con­ver­sion rate opti­miza­tion and social media engage­ment. What’s more, with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of the Inter­net of Things and all of the impli­ca­tions asso­ci­ated, per­son­al­iza­tion and opti­miza­tion are just going to get big­ger, bet­ter, and more uni­ver­sal. We’ll know more and con­sumers will expect us to deliver more—and the thought lead­ers and rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies within the indus­try will no doubt find incred­i­bly inno­v­a­tive ways to meet those demands and make the user expe­ri­ence even more per­sonal than it is right now.