How to Retool Personalization for a Privacy-Conscious World

(The following post is a modified mix of two of my most popular “non-COVID” posts from last year. Delivering personalized content and experiences remains a top priority for many B2B marketers, and recent research has found that effective personalization remains a top priority for many B2B marketers. A challenge for many marketers.In a survey of digital marketing leaders conducted by Gartner in November and December last year, 63% of respondents said they still struggle with delivering personalized customer experiences.So, this topic is as relevant today as it is. When the original posts were published last year.)

The value of personalization in marketing has been largely undisputed for nearly two decades. Today, most marketers see personalization as essential to success, and many companies have made personalization a top priority. But the marketing environment is changing, and that means it’s time for marketers to rethink their personalization strategy.

in a Report published in November of 2019Gartner predicts that by 2021, a third of marketers will reduce spending on personalization, and by 2025, 80% of marketers who have invested in personalization will abandon their efforts due to lack of ROI, data management risks, or both. These predictions have been surprising and controversial because they go against most conventional wisdom about assignment.

While I doubt that eight out of ten marketers will completely abandon personalization within the next five years, it is clear that marketers face a personalization puzzle. On the one hand, numerous studies conducted over the past several years have reported that consumers and business buyers want and are willing to provide personal information in order to receive offers, messages, and personal experiences.

But a growing number of studies are also showing that consumers and commercial buyers do not always welcome personalized marketing and will react aggressively when they see personalization go too far. in a One recent studyFor example, 38% of survey respondents said they would stop doing business with a company that sent them “scary” personal messages. Source: “Rethink Personalization for Maximum Impact” (Gartner, Inc., 2019).

Most marketing experts and many marketing leaders argue that the key to increasing the effectiveness of personal marketing is more Personalization. They assert that marketers should collect and use more Data about customers and prospects, personalize more specific and use more Often more channels and more types of interactions. The popularity of this view explains why Hyper personalization And Wide customization It recently got buzzword status.

The “more personalization” argument is based on the idea that increased personalization will produce more relevant messages and experiences, and that increased importance will make those messages and experiences more compelling. The main drawback of this approach is that it does not take into account the significant shift in public attitudes toward privatization that has occurred over the past few years.


Shadow of Cambridge Analytica

Since the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal became publicly known a few years ago, we have been bombarded with media coverage about how companies collect and use our personal information. Facebook’s data privacy policies and practices have been widely criticized, but other big tech companies like Alphabet/Google have also been the subject of multiple media stories and congressional hearings.

All of this has made the public more aware of how much personal data companies collect and how they use that data to target and personalize ads and other marketing communications.

Noticeable: The data practices of big tech companies have also been addressed by many distinguished scholars. If you’d like to see an example of these discussions, get a copy of The era of surveillance capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff. Dr. Zuboff is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School. Her book is comprehensive and factual—albeit somewhat sharp—but at over 700 pages, it’s neither fast nor easy to read.

Increasing public awareness affects personalization in two ways. First, as members of the public have become more familiar with how companies use personalization in marketing, they have become less sensitive to it. They no longer see personal messages or unusual content. Therefore, many of the most widely used allocation methods and techniques have less impact today than in the past. As the old saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

Importantly, as people have learned more about how companies collect and use personal information, they have also become more alarmed about these practices. Today, when someone receives a personalized message, they are likely to think first about what enabled the customization. What does this company know about me? How did the company obtain that information?

The puzzle facing marketers is clear. Most consumers and commercial buyers say they want and value personalized offers, messages, and experiences. However, at the same time, both consumers and corporate buyers are becoming more concerned about privacy, and are becoming increasingly unsure about how companies obtain and use their personal information.

Under these circumstances, the “more customization” strategy may do more harm than good. So what is the alternative?

Personalization has been the subject of many research studies over the past few years, and these studies provide a good picture of what is required for personal marketing to achieve maximum results. There are three main components of an effective allocation strategy.


Make personalization useful

The first requirement for effective personalized marketing is that it must offer both purposeful and practical value to the recipient. A 2018 Gartner/CEB study documents the business value of personalization that customers and prospects perceive as beneficial. I have discussed this research previously, so I will not repeat this material here. For a more detailed description of the Gartner/CEB study, see This publish.


Make the customization “relationship fit”

The second component of an effective personalization strategy is to use the appropriate level of personalization for each customer or prospect. By the way, I mean the level of personalization has to match the realistic situation of the relationship. A message or offer sent to a long-time customer can and should be more personalized than the first communication with a new potential customer.

To be effective, personalized marketing must be based on real insights from your customers and their expectations. When you take personalization beyond these ideas, it becomes unoriginal and tends to be seen as rudeness. Corporate Visions recently conducted a field trial involving this principle, and you can read more about this research at This publish.


Get meaningful permission to personalize

Much of the concern about data privacy and personalization revolves around issues of transparency and control. Many consumers and business buyers are not confident that they know what personal data companies collect about them or how that data is used. Many feel that they have no meaningful control over these data practices.

Several recent research studies have shown how important transparency and control are to customers and prospects. For example, in Survey 2019 Of 3,000 people in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, a Harris survey asked participants about the importance of several data privacy practices. The following table shows the percentage of respondents who rated four transparency and oversight practices as very important or It is absolutely necessary:

These research findings point the way to the third important component of an effective allocation strategy. In a world where privacy concerns are on the rise, meaningful So It is critical to the success of personal marketing. If personalization research tells us anything, it is telling us that most consumers and commercial buyers will welcome and appreciate personalized content when it is useful, original, and based on the permission that is given willingly and consciously.

So how do marketers get this kind of permission? There are three main steps.

Using Personalization “Programs” In most cases, personalization efforts must be organized into separate programs, each designed to provide a specific type of value to a specific type of customer or potential customer. This approach leads marketers to focus on the purpose of personalized marketing from the perspective of the recipient.

Invitation to participateInvite your customers and/or prospects to “subscribe” to personalized content On a program-by-program basisand reassured them that subscribing to one of the programs will not open the door wide to other marketing communications.

be transparentIt is important to be “radically” transparent in your invitation about the details of the personalization program. The main objective of the invitation is to persuade clients or prospects to participate in the programme. So it should include:

  • Why the program will be useful and valuable to the recipient
  • What personal information will be used and how will the information be used
  • How will custom content be delivered (format)
  • How often will customized content be delivered
  • program duration
  • A clear statement that the recipient has the option to “unsubscribe” at any time

It’s about how – not whether – to personalize

yThe online issue for marketers is not whether they should customize marketing content and customer experiences. The evidence is clear that customers and prospects want and appreciate the increased importance that personalization can provide. The real problem is how to present personalization in a way that respects privacy. By making personalization useful, original and meaningful permission-based, marketers will reap the maximum benefits of custom marketing.

Top image courtesy of Phil Wolff via Flickr (CC).

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