How Personalization Can Help Soothe Privacy Concerns

picture of a concerned customer interacting online

Between cyber attacks and data breaches, customers have more privacy concerns than ever and are more cautious with their data Despite that, customers want us to use their data to deliver better experiences.

These two ideas seem to be in conflict. How can we resolve what appears to be a paradox between privacy concerns and demands for personalization? The fact that people are willing to provide their info for better deals, faster service resolution, and better experiences overall demonstrates that there is a need for intelligent personalization. The solution is to use data respectfully. This can prove that you take customer privacy seriously. Customer journey orchestration and real-time decisioning can bridge the gap between personalization expectations and privacy fears by making customers feel they are respected.

Data Protection Can Help Personalization

Marketers must build a personalization strategy to deliver great experiencesWe’ve written before about how the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) in Europe actually provides incentives for businesses to invest in orchestration and how that provides opportunities to create more engaging experiences.

The truth is that people should be concerned about their privacy, and businesses must respect that. What’s exciting is that these regulations require the ability for a customer to access all of their data.  This naturally enables the business to access and use that data as well. Not only that, but regulation also incentivizes businesses to avoid poor experiences.  Most customers aren’t happy sharing personal info for targeted ads, for example, and might request their data be deleted outright. This makes the business case to use techniques that improve the customer experience clearer than ever.

What techniques are right for your business? While the strategy behind great personalization differs from company to company, some have proven themselves time and again. You need to consider this, even changing your current approaches to be relevant.  In particular, two ways of thinking about how to use customer data have had great results for our clients.

Show Me You Know Me

A customer is happier knowing that businesses know her and understand her needsPersonalization is more than just knowing how to contact someone. While personalization as a practice has been part of both the marketing and CX sphere for some time now, 63% of marketers say it’s difficult to execute. The first step is to move beyond personas to true personalization. While a persona can group prospects into useful groups based on past data it is difficult to use a persona-driven approach to handle someone’s real-time context. Doing that requires businesses to handle customer data at the individual level. Even better is when the brand is able to do this in real time.

Take, for example, the upgraded personalized experience at Volkswagen. When a visitor comes to Volkswagen’s website, their customer journey tool uses these real-time insights to analytically determine the most appropriate content for that individual. This happens at that moment in time based upon their current and prior behavior. If a consumer leaves the site and comes back, even much later, Volkswagen remembers.  The consumer is immediately greeted with engaging content or offers relevant to their cumulative activity history.

Another way businesses can apply this “show me you know me” thinking is in how they communicate. Using preferred channels helps soothe privacy concerns because it shows consumers that you’re not just blindly using their data, but instead being thoughtful about which systems can contact them, at what time. Now they’re much less likely to be removed from the flow of their experience or to experience a discordant communication.

Add Value With Personalization

A customer concerned with her data being available onlineWhen it comes to data concerns, customers are faced with a the elements of a cost-benefit analysis. Despite privacy concerns, customers will give you data to improve their experience. This means that businesses need to use data for their customer’s benefit.  Few things make customers more satisfied than getting an excellent deal, a better experience, or an easier path to purchase.

One example of this is how Gerber leveraged personalization to deliver an experience that enriches an entire family. Their company made customers feel comfortable providing personal details about their children’s ages, health, and diet. In exchange, customers receive detailed information about nutrition, early childhood development markers, and ways to support healthy growth in kids.. By personalizing the information each parent receives and using that information primarily to deliver added value, Gerber increased social sharing rates and increased their revenue. This was because of their investments in making the experience feel more like customers were being guided or supported, not targeted.

While personalization is valuable in general, there are a few specific ways that businesses can prove this to customers. It isn’t limited to providing new content like Gerber. Another way is for marketers to use consumer interests and previous history to nudge consumers to more profitable and enjoyable behaviors. Sometimes, simple retargeting can make potential customers feel understood, and then buy the product. Another key technique is simply respecting customer desires when they ask not to be contacted or tell you their preferred contact method. Listening to these small details build rapport with your audience which can provide an opportunity to get affirmative consent to be contacted. All of these efforts further cement the trust customers have in your business. Personalization assuages privacy fears by making the experience smoother for customers.


Using data to deliver a better digital experienceUltimately, what personalization does is soothe concerns about risks that customers genuinely can’t avoid. When there are bad experiences or a lack of personalization, companies can break customer trust forever. This is why it is so important to invest in getting personalization right. Good personalization can help by making customers feel respected, known and as if they’re getting something from the risk. To assuage privacy concerns, companies must change their thinking from “how can I use their data to target customers” to “How can I use their data to improve the customer experience”?  It’s a subtle difference, but it has a tremendous impact on your relationship with each customer.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can personalize to deliver great experience, be sure to read our guide to bridging the personalization gap! These gaps create poor experiences, which can lead to a loss of customer trust.