How to Find the Fine Line Between Privacy and Personalization

There is a great paradoxical tension in the marketing world today. Customers want the content that brands send to them to be personalized, yet the sheer amount of content they receive each day overwhelms them and makes them demand more privacy. How can you send them the kind of personalized content they want, but also cut through all the marketing noise they're receiving that just makes them want to be left alone?

This fine line between privacy and personalization has been a marketing conundrum for many years now, yet several brands are still struggling to find that line so they can balance both customer demands. "The struggle is real," as they say, so as marketers we need to take the time to understand it - both the dilemma we face, as well as the solution.

The dilemma. In order to tailor their marketing message to their customers, businesses must gather personal details about them. This means that personal information can never be kept truly private anymore, unless you live a life that is totally off the grid and not connected to computers, phones, or the digital world in any way. Fortunately, most customers know and accept this fact! So why is there still a dilemma, especially when customers have expressed that they want brands to figure out what it is they want from them?

In the early years of internet marketing, gathering personal info started out innocent, using data points like name, gender, birth-date, and location, which were usually collected during the signup process on a website or subscription to an email newsletter. If you gave a company your birthday for example, personalized content would show up in your inbox looking like some kind of promotion or special offer sent only to you for the special occasion of your birthday. But today, personalized content can be downright creepy, like these examples gathered by social intelligence company, Brandwatch.

Unfortunately like the examples linked to above, being overzealous about personalization is exactly what causes the dilemma. Brands see results from their personalization efforts, and so they invest in more advanced technology and data analytics that have the capability of really honing in on who their customers are, and what they might want. But in doing so, they have "thrown the baby out with the bathwater," as the old idiom states. In other words, by increasing their personalization efforts, brands may have successfully thrown out the bathwater (the impersonal and useless content that the customer does not value), but in going overboard on these efforts, they have also thrown out the baby (the customer's privacy, which they DO value).

The result? A customer's experience with a brand coming off as way too personalized, and therefore creepy.

So how can brands find that fine line that will help them create a marketing strategy that balances personalization and privacy in a seamless fashion?

The solution. After they get a better understanding of how easy it is to cross the line when it comes to privacy, brands can then formulate a solution that will not only give their customers what they want (personalized content) but also what they demand (a respect for their privacy).

To start, check to see how creepy you are actually being with your current personalization efforts. Are you only collecting data that you actually need? When you ask for information from your customers, are you focused more on tailoring their experience or collecting their personal details?

You will also want to check and see how transparent you are being. Customers definitely won't trust you if you aren't being transparent. If you haven't done so already, add clear and understandable language to your privacy policies and agreements about how you collect, use, disclose, and secure customer data. If you're not sure what to include, this handy list of documents can provide you with some best practices to follow. Make sure you also develop a way for customers to easily opt out of anything they sign up for that will involve sharing their data.

Next, give your customers the ability to customize how they would like to experience your brand. This can be done through an interactive feedback survey or quiz where they answer a series of targeted questions. Ask them what kind of content they want to see, how often they want to see it, how and when they will allow you to use the personal details they provide, etc. Not only does this give them control over how you use their data and how you interact with them, but it also shows them that you are serious about asking their permission and giving them a better experience.

Lastly, offer your customers something that they will value in exchange for completing your survey or quiz. According to research done by Deloitte, customers are more willing to share their personal information and preferences with a company when they get something for it in return. Whether its a coupon/promo code to use on their next purchase, or access to some exclusive features or content, offering a reward of some sort will make your customers feel appreciated and keep them coming back for more.

The formula listed above serves as the perfect balance between privacy and personalization. In other words... what finding that fine line between the two is all about!

  What dilemmas has your company run into while trying to balance privacy and personalization? Tell us your story in the comment section below!  

Posted on in Marketing Trends

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About the Author

Megan is the senior blog writer at Clench Media, a lead generation specialist company that generates high quality leads across multiple verticals domestically and internationally.
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