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Walking the Line Between Privacy and Personalization

Consumer data is one of the three fundamental pillars upon which brands build exceptional customer experiences  (the other two are technology and people). But brands are facing a conundrum today – how can they meet today’s requirement for delivering tailored, personalized experiences when many consumers don’t trust brands to collect or use their personal data? 

A new survey we conducted with 1,000 U.S. consumers found that most consumers don’t know how brands use their data, don’t know which brands are using their data and would stop using a brand that was dishonest about its data use. Additionally, consumers are hesitant to share their personal info with brands, waiting at least a month before doing so. And digital brands have it even harder: half of consumers feel more comfortable giving their personal information to brands with physical presences versus those that are online-only.

So how can brands earn and keep consumers’ trust? First off, they need to comply with data privacy regulations and safeguard consumers’ personal information. Next, they need to be transparent about how they are using it and give consumers control over their info. Providing education on how the data is being used will ease consumers’ concerns about who has access to their personal information and what is being done with it. Lastly, brands need to ensure consumers actually get value from sharing their personal information, to help get them on board with brands having and using their data.

A Crawl, Walk, Run Approach to Balance Privacy and Personalization

When using data to engage with consumers on a personal level, brands must be cautious of overstepping into the “creepy territory,” where they are too forward with personalized experiences or asking for too much personal data off the bat. This is one reason why we recommend easing consumers into data-driven personalized experiences with a three-step approach we call the “Crawl-Walk-Run Approach.” 

Crawl: Especially with consumers who are already wary of giving away their info, brands need to establish transparency and trust first before doing more sophisticated personalization or asking for more data. Basic personalization based on less personal data like geolocation, device type or visit frequency can start warming consumers up to the company’s use of data, while still driving fast results with minimal effort and easy-to-collect data. 

Walk: Once trust is established and consumers are willing to engage with the brand to share better data, more sophisticated personalization is possible. This can entail using data on browsing behavior and pages viewed to segment users into more specific groups to serve up relevant and tailored content. Or it can mean using data about completed actions to prescribe the consumer’s next action – such as using the fact that the consumer attended an event to encourage them to sign up for a newsletter.

Run: While one-to-one personalization is the ideal for marketers, this requires a lot of effort and data to execute. However, “Run” level personalizations can have a significant impact on creating positive customer experiences that increase engagement and loyalty. This level of personalization could include marketing automation tools and integration with CRM systems, cross-channel efforts and multiple layers of “Crawl” personalizations. 

With lofty fines for non-compliance with data privacy regulations and consumers’ high expectations for brand experiences and trustworthiness, it is now imperative that brands prioritize both data protection and personalized customer experiences. Once a brand falls short and loses consumer trust, it is hard to regain it. So keeping a balance between both data privacy and while still delivering personalized, in context digital experiences will help brands build and maintain lasting customer relationships.

For more on how to improve customer experience with personalization and data, download our free report on the state of personalization.

Eric Fullerton, product marketing manager, Acquia

Eric Fullerton

Product Marketing Manager Acquia

Eric Fullerton is a product marketing leader for Acquia's personalization and journey orchestration products. Eric’s passion solving for the future of digital comes from living it firsthand for the past 10 years.

Eric has been navigating the divide between people, process, and technology at small organizations and global tech giants alike as he continues his journey to excite employees and engage customers through the power of digital marketing.