Money & Business

The “Creepy” Factor: When Personalization Goes Too Far

By / Sep 5, 2018 (Jirsak/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Recent research suggests that consumers are becoming more concerned about the “creepy” aspects of personalization—even though evidence is prevalent that personalization works. How can you balance those concerns?

Personalization is an important phenomenon for marketing in general and your association in particular, but could you be overdoing it?

Recent research on the issue suggests that consumers are getting sensitive to personalization that takes things a step too far.

A study from earlier this year by the experience management firm InMoment found that three quarters of consumers found most types of personalization at least somewhat creepy. Furthermore, the 2018 CX Trends report [registration] found that nearly 4 in 10 brands admit to using marketing techniques that could be considered at least somewhat creepy.

Some techniques are considered creepier than others—for example, physical contact that bleeds into digital interactions, as is sometimes reported with Google and Facebook, is particularly seen as crossing the line, as is asking for too many details from an individual.

Even considering that, InMoment finds that most people will stick with a brand after a creepy incident, with only 22 percent saying they’ll go with a competitor, but the problem is that a similar portion of consumers tell others about the bad experience, leading to negative word of mouth.

The report suggests that metrics shouldn’t get in the way of reputation.

“Don’t let traditional marketing metrics influence the experience and corrupt your customer promise,” the report states. “It will pay off in both the short [and] the long term if the personalized experiences you provide are the right kind of memorable.”

But the hard part of personalization is that it shows a lot of benefits—personalization and segmentation can boost email open rates and drive increased revenue for your audience.

And consumers suggest that they actually want personalized content to some degree: A May survey from Adlucent found that roughly 70 percent of consumers emphasized preferring both content and ads that were tailored to their tastes.

But things can go too far—as Internet Retailer recently noted, some consumers may be uncomfortable with seeing their name in an email sent by a marketer, while others find retargeted ads (i.e., those ads that follow you across the internet) a bit much.

Multiply this by all the trouble that GDPR can create for personalization, and you could have a headache on your hands.

So, what can be done? In a recent post for Forbes, marketing analyst Daniel Newman, the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, stated that transparency might be the way forward to balance between personalized content and the creep factor.

“Consumers want to trust their brand and be trusted in return,” he wrote. “They want to understand where their data is going before that trust is broken. Transparency is the only way to go.”

For associations that are focused on all of these issues, along with engagement, making your intentions crystal clear might be the best balancing act for your organization.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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