Blog post

Keeping Marketing Personalisation Cool Not Creepy

Date of post

15 April 2021

Read time

5 mins

We all know that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a drastic effect on businesses. For much of 2020, the option of going to a brick and mortar store was removed, meaning companies had to rely on digital more than ever before – something that was new to many companies. 

This has meant that many brands are giving new digital marketing tactics a try, including personalisation. 

Marketing personalisation can help improve the customer journey, help you to create more meaningful connections with customers and enable you to better segment your customers. All of this can lead to a higher conversion rate, as well as improved customer retention. 

However, personalisation can take it too far sometimes. There is a fine line between creepy and cool, which can mean that your personalisation tactics have the opposite effect to what you intended. So what do you need to know to keep your marketing personalisation helpful rather than have it fall on the creepy side?


There is a thin line between good and bad personalisation

While customers like a bit of personalisation, with 72% of consumers saying previously that they will only engage with marketing that is tailored to their interests and personalised, it is easy for it to go too far. 

creepy or cool marketing personalisation tacticsAccording to a report from Cheetah Digital and Econsultancy, around 74% of consumers think that it’s cool when they get recommendations from a retailer based on past purchases. In addition to this, 54% are happy to get a reminder, either via email or a targeted ad, reminding them that they left an item in their basket. 

However, some marketing personalisation gives consumers a creepy vibe that can put them off buying from a brand. Over half (52%) of consumers think that it’s creepy when they get targeted for ads on social media based on recent shopping experiences from other sites. Around 54% also don’t like it when they receive a personalised offer after staying on a site for more than two minutes. On top of this, 56% find it irksome when a chatbot has access to past purchase history to help with online shopping. 

The creep factor can be more pronounced though, as 72% say they find it unsettling when they get adverts from companies they don’t know based on their location data. Others (69%) say that getting adverts that are related to something they’ve talked about near a smart device is creepy. Finally, 66% don’t like it when they get adverts that follow them across devices.


Consumers will share their data for compensation

When consumers have shared their data and receive personalisation that way, the whole experience is less creepy. However, getting them to share their data, especially in an era of data mistrust, can be a challenge. This is where compensation comes in.

A previous study found that 71% of US consumers are willing to share personal data in exchange for compensation. The above survey supports this, with 80% of consumers saying they will provide their personal data in exchange for early access, with 79% saying the same if they have the chance to win a prize. 

exchanging benefits for dataIn addition, over half (53%) of respondents said they rate discounts or coupons as highly valuable when exchanging personal data, with 46% saying the same about rewards/loyalty points. This can mean that welcome discounts for signing up for a newsletter continue to be a good way to collect personal data that can be used for marketing purposes. 

However, brands should think about what personal data could be useful besides names and email addresses. Asking customers to fill in personal profiles can be a great way to segment them better and provide a more personalised experience, but this has to be voluntary. Providing loyalty points in return or a unique discount code can encourage this extra data to be provided but it should never be a requirement unless it is vital to the service you are providing.


When personalisation falls short

Creepy personalisation tactics aren’t the only problem you need to avoid though. Getting personalisation wrong can be just as damaging as invasive tactics, which is why you need to treat it as an essential part of your marketing strategy. 

Inaccurate personalisationPeople don’t want to be targeted with ads for products they’ve already bought or be provided with suggestions based on what other people have bought. Consumers want an experience that is relevant and targeted to be as helpful as possible. 

These lazy attempts at personalisation have seen an increase in people limiting the way that brands can advertise to them. Some 27% of consumers now use ad-blocking technology while 22% have paid for premium internet security software to protect their data. Using these tactics can make it harder for brands to reach consumers.

So what does irrelevant marketing personalisation look like? According to Cheetah Digital and Econsultancy’s report:

  • 42% of consumers have been targeted with irrelevant content or offers
  • 30% have received messaging based on information that hasn’t been shared with the brand
  • 30% get messages that don’t relate to their decision-making
  • 28% have received messages unrelated to their shopping history
  • 27% have received messages that don’t understand their wants and needs
  • 20% receive communications at the wrong time of day

Personalisation should be built on the data you have been provided about an individual and not based on a one-size-fits-all approach. This means combining transactional data with zero-party and psychographic data to deliver the right message in the right place at the right time to the right person. This may be more difficult than a ‘customers also bought’ message, but it will pay off.


What do consumers want from personalisation?

Now you know what consumers don’t want marketing personalisation to look like, exactly what should your strategy aim to do?

According to the same survey, consistency is the aim of the game and is at the top of the list for consumers. When asked to think about their favourite brand to have communicated with them over the last six months, a huge 83% agreed that their top brand provided a consistent experience no matter where they interacted with it. 

what good brands deliverOn top of this, 80% said successful brands keep them coming back for more when communicating something new while 74% said their favourite brand strikes to develop a relationship. 

Perhaps most important in terms of personalisation is the fact that 73% say their favourite brand uses their data in a way that makes them feel comfortable. When you combine this with a further 73% of consumers saying that good brands treat them as individuals, it shows that more detailed marketing personalisation and tailored experiences are key to success.


Personalisation when cookies are no more

By the end of this year, Google will no longer be supporting third-party cookies, which are used for a lot of personalisation tactics. This doesn’t mean that personalisation is dead – especially when so many consumers now expect it – but it does mean strategies need to be changed. 

Google no longer supporting these cookies could help to cut down on creepy personalisation tactics across the board, but the chances are there will still be some brands that take it too far. Adapting your strategy to utilise first-party and zero-party data, as well as people-based marketing and contextual advertising can help you better target consumers without the creep factor – and without breaking GDPR.


Personalisation trial and error

As with any aspect of digital marketing, there is an element of trial and error when it comes to personalisation. Running tests and looking at your data to see what tactics work will give you an idea of what your target audience wants from personalisation. 

With the line between cool and creepy personalisation being so thin, what works for another brand may not work for yours, so you need to discover the best way forward. This isn’t going to happen overnight and there’s no guarantee that your best strategy will still be getting the best results 6 months down the road.

Continual analysis and testing is the only way to keep your marketing personalisation strategy up to date, ensure it works and make sure that it hasn’t slid over the line into creepy marketing. 

Post author

A true creative at heart, Tom loves using his expertise in design to connect brands with people. He graduated from Bournemouth University with a degree in product design. In 2021, he merged his own design agency with Marketing Labs to create a full-service digital marketing agency.

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