When Does Marketing Personalisation Become Creepy?
When Does Personalisation Become Creepy?
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When Does Personalisation Become Creepy?

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Spying on customers is creepy and unacceptable

Big data and advanced analytics mean we have more opportunities for personalisation at our fingertips than we’ve ever had before. The minutiae of every single web visit can be recorded, analysed, and used to fuel communications that are entirely unique to each individual – but where does this customer intelligence change from useful and engaging to creepy and invasive?

The difficulty we have as marketers is that every consumer will have their own threshold for what they think is acceptable use of their personal data, and where the line between “useful” and “creepy” lies.

There’s no doubt that an element of personalisation is required for building relationships between businesses and customers. Without a personal touch, it’s hard to think of an anonymous corporation as a friend, so how do you get it right?

Add Value

Of course, adding value in return for customer data is, or at least should be, old news for marketers. Consumers sign-up to your mailing list in exchange for some kind of benefit, whether it be interesting and informative content or money off future purchases, not because they want to make it easier for you to sell to them.

The same applies to personalisation. Displaying items that a customer was browsing last time they visited the site makes it much easier for them to find what they are looking for, saving them time and effort – adding value. Displaying everything you can possibly think of related to all of the data you have on them could be overkill, so how much personalisation is the right amount, and how much could be viewed as creepy.

Do What Is Expected

Exceeding expectations is a key part of delivering great service, but there could come a point where over familiarisation is unwelcome. Think about what’s reasonable – using beacons and geolocation technology to identify each customer in store so that they can be greeted by name could cause customers to feel uncomfortable. How do they know me? Have I met them? How does the company know this about me?

On the other end of the scale, receiving letters from your bank addressed “Dear Account Holder” is clearly insufficient. The bank knows your name (along with some of the most personal details you might ever hand over to a business), why can’t they use it? There are many examples of loyalty card providers, who fail to engage even by name, let alone demonstrate they understand or even consider a shopper’s product needs.

As marketers, we might have a different opinion on what constitutes a reasonable use of our data – we know what’s involved in processing it, we know what our intentions are and we understand the technology. Truly understanding your target segment or individual customers, means demonstrating intelligent, responsible use of customer data.

Be Transparent

It’s a legal requirement that you inform customers that their onsite behaviour is being tracked via cookies, or that you’re collecting data on them, but the way you inform people can make a big difference to how much they trust you and accept your personalisation efforts. Burying your data information in a collection of jargon and legalese will just leave customers clueless as to the exact nature of your intentions – leaving them not knowing what to expect.

Consider Your Audience

Not only does insight into audience help you personalise the content you serve, but it can also help you determine what type and detail of personalisation is appropriate. For example, millennials, or younger “digital natives”, are less concerned with sharing personal information because online shopping and social media are the norm for these generations – they not only know but expect businesses to use their personal data to create a better customer experience.

Comparatively, the older “baby boomer” generation are typically much more suspicious of handing over their data in a digital format, so are much more likely to be uncomfortable when they see high levels of personalisation being used.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t personalise – it just means that different methods are likely to be appropriate. As I mentioned above, transparency is key - if it’s going to make the recipient question how the business knows this information about them, it could make them feel uncomfortable.

The Power of Personalisation

As data-driven marketing matures, the levels of comfort among consumers will increase as it’s increasingly perceived as ‘the norm’. In the mean-time, there’s plenty of methods for using big data to personalise your content in an intelligent, useful and importantly non-creepy way.

You don’t need to display your omniscience to your customers (creepy), you just need to present the right content, at the right time, through the right channel (useful).

Intilery can help you – request a customer engagement audit or call one of our consultants now.

Key Takeaways:

  • Personalisation should make for a better customer experience
  • Beware the unexpected?
  • Be transparent
  • Over familiarisation is subjective

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