Finding balance between personalization and privacy


This article is the last part of a post series about personalization in marketing. Click here if you would like to read it from the start, or click here to download as an ebook.

The evolution of tools that provide information about users and their online activities makes it possible for advertisers to understand their target group on a deeper level. By using demographical and behavioral data, they can narrow their audience and increase the overall effectiveness of their campaigns. Website owners apply similar methods to improve the experience of visitors, and using these methods may also help the owners of brick and mortar stores.

The personalization techniques described in this post series could bring great results on their own, but combining them multiplies the chance of success. The call to action in a personalized email can lead to a custom-made landing page. You can convince visitors reached through a remarketing campaign to sign up on your website,then use the information obtained this way to personalize their online experience, and increase the effectiveness of your email campaigns or social media communication even more.

I hope the examples and solutions I collected will help you get started with personalization, and find the methods which are the most suitable for you. There’s just one last thing I’d like to call your attention to.

personalization can back fire

Personalization can back-fire

If you live in the EU, you are probably familiar with the cookie law. In an attempt to protect online privacy and educate users, member states adopted a law that gave individuals the right to refuse the use of cookies, and ordered websites to make visitors aware of them.

Most sites now display a small box that informs visitors about cookies, and allows them to agree with placing them on their device. This practice doesn’t really help in educating users about the importance of protecting their privacy online, since most of them still have no clue what a cookie is, but at the very least it makes browsing the web a bit more difficult.

Creating laws without understanding how the internet works is a 20-year-old tradition. Since marketers and designers building personalized web services use sensitive data, it’s not hard to envision something far worse than the cookie law. This, of course, is less likely to happen if personalization could provide a better experience for visitors in the long run, instead of annoying them.

Users want personalization and privacy

Users want personalization and privacy

Luckily, the majority of internet users understand how personalization works by now, and most of them believe that it is a good thing. Yahoo and Ipsos Media CT published a detailed study of visitors’ expectations based on the answers of 6000 responders, representative of the US online population.  

Almost 60 percent of the people asked were aware of the fact that personalization happens to written material online, and a similar amount of responders knew that ads are tailored to them. Even more than that, nearly 80 percent of the responders expressed a desire for some kind of content personalization during the survey and more than half of the them also preferred personalized advertisements to more traditional internet ads.

While two-thirds of the people asked accepted marketers using behavioral data in exchange for more relevant ads, most people stated that they would like to have the option to control how their data is used, and that they also wanted publishers to explain why a certain content was selected for them.

Michael Smith, a marketing leader at IBM, advises website owners to understand how customers want to engage before personalizing their content or advertisements. “Customers expect something in return for their data…It’s easy to become fixated by the technology… Be sure you’re using it to address a need,” he told the Guardian in an interview about the new marketing trend.

While a poorly configured retargeting campaign or the overuse of social data could displease your customers, the majority of visitors seem to welcome more subtle uses of personalization.

I assume, when you change the way you communicate with your visitors, that the goal of applying the new methods has the biggest impact on your chances of success. If you intend to use personalization for your customers’ benefit, educate yourself about the best practices and concentrate on providing a great experience, you will not step over the line.

It was the last part of our personalization series. If you’d like to read it from the beginning, click here!

For further reading about personalization we recommend the following articles:
8 personalization trends that are reinventing the buyers journey (Hubspot)
Why personalization is key to the future of marketing (Forbes)

by Sáfár Attila
on Tuesday, April 12, 2016

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