Customized vs Creepy: How to Create Relevance without Crossing the Line

At this point in the marketing game, statistics about the importance and efficacy of personalization abound. Modern consumers demand relevant and timely user experiences. End of story.

However, we can all appreciate the difference between receiving an email discount for the shampoo you order every month from your favorite beauty etailer, and getting a coupon in the mail from an unknown company offering competitive pricing for that 50” smart TV you Googled a few days ago.

The road to customization can put brands on the fast track to creepy if they don’t navigate it in a responsible and transparent manner. Here are 3 ways your business can forge consumer trust and build personal, permission-based user experiences that customers love.

Take a First-Party Approach

At some point during the early days of the web, marketers came to believe that if they could only track consumers’ online behaviors, they could reach them with the right messages at prime points of influence.

Out of this school of thought has grown the cookie-perpetuated user experiences that make consumers cringe. Not only is being followed across the web by banner ads for the dentures your grandma asked you to find and order for her creepy, but it creates irrelevant user experiences and damages brand perception. Case in point: 43% of both US and UK consumers say that they have ignored all future communications from a company after receiving irrelevant information or products (Gigya).

To provide consumers with experiences that accurately reflect their wants and needs in an authentic and respectful manner, businesses are turning to first-party data. In contrast to third-party insights, which are often collected by buying and selling customer information collected via tracking cookies and other “surprise” techniques, first-party data is gathered directly from consumers’ in a permission-based way via email subscriptions, surveys, social login, etc.

Relying on first-party data enables brands to request access to specific, strategic data points that can be used to customize the user experience in meaningful and accurate ways. Think of first-party data collection as a digital handshake between businesses and consumers, where relevance takes root by establishing customer relationships.

Leverage Progressive Profiling

Think about when you meet someone new. You will ask her name, maybe for her email to stay in touch and, depending on the circumstances, about her general interests. But you would probably never ask her about her relationship status, political views and annual income – this information would come out over time as your relationship developed.

Unfortunately, many brands toss this etiquette out the window when it comes to establishing customer relationships, and cross the line into creepy by asking for too much information at first touch. Essentially, brands should make sure that the amount and type of information they are requesting corresponds with their current level of customer interaction and intimacy.

Additional data can be collected over time as relationships are built and consumers feel more comfortable trusting your brand with their personal information. Nearly 85% of US consumers have abandoned registering for a site or app because they were uncomfortable with the amount or type of data being requested, yet 30% claim that they are more willing to share information with a company if it is a brand they have come to know and trust.

To do this effectively, brands must offer plenty of opportunities for customers to engage and provide additional information. For example, a consumer may not feel comfortable providing her favorite brands the first time she logs in to your site. However, once she begins actively sharing your content and products with her social networks, you can request access to her favorite brands in exchange for a homepage tailored to her unique interests.

Provide Power & Transparency

According to Gigya’s 2014 privacy and personalization survey, 45% of US consumers claim they are more willing to share information with brands that make it extremely clear how their information will be used. And while only 23% of consumers say they have “never” used social login to sign in to a site or app, the number one reason for this is the fear that the company is looking to sell their data.

Clearly, when it comes to consumer data, transparency is key. Businesses should take care not just to let users know what data points they would like to collect, but how they will – and will not – be used.

Give consumers the power to share only the data points that they believe will provide them with the best value exchange, and make sure they know exactly where to go to update or edit these permissions, ensuring personalization never comes as a surprise.

Most importantly, make sure that your customer database is equipped to automatically handle the growing number of ever-changing data and privacy compliance regulations, as well as real-time account changes, such as auto-deletion of non-basic account information when application permissions are revoked.

As consumer demands for customization continue to grow, so will data privacy concerns and regulations. To learn more about the current state of consumer privacy and personalization and what your business can do to foster consumer trust and maintain privacy compliance, download our 2014 Privacy and Personalization Survey Guide.

By Rachel Serpa