Personalisation vs privacy – the double-edged sword

Why consumers are still comfortable to provide personal data to marketers in return for a personalised online experience.

You are reading: Personalisation vs privacy – the double-edged sword

E-commerce is massive and, with 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers preferring to shop online rather than in-store, it’s certainly more of a cultural shift than a passing trend. With so much competition online, personalised marketing and appealing to the individual consumer is the only way for businesses to break through the noise, however, it’s a double-edged sword – whilst as consumers we expect brands to know what we want and appeal to our personal preferences, we are also more aware than ever of our rights to privacy when it comes to our data – so how can marketers win?

In last week’s My Five, we observed the genesis of GDPR and, whilst consumers found their inboxes flooded with desperate emails from companies trying to retain some of their disengaged mailing lists, reconfirmation rates to these last-ditch attempts averaged a measly 10%. So it just goes to show that sticking someone’s name on the top of an automated email doesn’t make it any less spammy and isn’t enough when it comes to personalising marketing to your customer.

‘…your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.’

Granted, Dr Ian Malcolm was referring to the resurrection of dinosaur-kind when he made this observation in Jurassic Park, however, it seems that digital marketers have also fallen foul of the same mistake. Data collected by Accenture for their 2016 Personalization Pulse Check report shows that almost two-thirds of consumers who reported a brand experience that was too personal or invasive did so ‘because the brand had information about the consumer that they didn’t share knowingly or directly, such as a recommendation based on a purchase they made with a different business’. As such, whilst it is possible for marketers to track consumers’ digital footprints across other channels and control this information to suit their own ends, it’s not entirely ethical, is borderline creepy and, most importantly consumers don’t like it.

What personalised marketing means to the consumer

Ultimately, consumers don’t want to be spied on, they want to be listened to. Equally, they want to be assisted, not dictated to. Personalised marketing is of course a bonus for businesses as it allows them to influence consumers’ range of choices and point them in the direction of the things they want them to see, but the main purpose for the personalisation of content should be that it adds value for the consumers by enhancing their online experience.

Consumers aren’t stupid. We all know that our digital activity is being watched yet 70% of consumers are still happy to share personal data with companies, and research from Magnetic/MyBuys offers an explanation why…

Consumers expectations from personalised marketing
Source: Magnetic/MyBuys (February 2015)

Just by looking at the top two responses, consumers’ expectations of what they seek to gain from allowing businesses to use their data become pretty apparent: they want to save time and they want to save money.

Fortune favours the honest

As recent headlines have shown, disrespecting consumers’ personal information or not being honest about how you control their data is no longer acceptable, yet has there been a mass departure of Facebook users? Hardly, because the convenience and the value that the service offers outweighs the lack of consideration for privacy – for now. But with consumers becoming more and more savvy when it comes to the digital all seeing eye, as a business owner you’re more likely to withhold a more trusting and sustainable relationship with consumers if you ask for permission first rather than forgiveness later. What’s more, consumers will be more inclined to give permission in the first place if they know they will benefit from doing so, turning that double-edged sword into a win-win situation.

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