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Privacy in the age of personalisation

Personalisation today is everything, with most consumers expecting to be recognised and known over the course of each interaction and experience they have with a brand. This has been further accelerated as a result of the pandemic, with most organisations having to shift all of their operations and services online.

Convenience has become the new normal and the expectation is that brands keep finding new ways to deliver more personalised experiences and products, quicker than ever.

To achieve this, organisations don’t have a choice but to use customer data and deep analytics capabilities such as machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to understand every consumer’s habits, behaviours and individual expectations.

In a way, it’s as if customers were using personal data as a currency to purchase convenience and commodity. 

But this raises big questions around the right to consumers’ privacy and protection of their data.

Actually, the most recent annual State of Personalisation Report 2022 found that 62% of customers expect personalisation. Yet, the same respondents shared that they don’t trust brands to keep their personal data secure and to use it responsibly.

So how can brands find the right balancing act?

Understand the level of concern

Most consumers and citizens are willing to share some data. For example, if it’s about improving education or national security most people would find it acceptable to share their data, to some extent of course.

But there is more reluctance to share personal data with organisations.

Realising who sees the data and how that data is used will make up for the level of concern one individual has.

This means that marketers and customer experience experts today need to understand the different levels of concerns that different types of data bring. It is about finding where that line lies and whether the consumer will see the collection of data outweighing the benefits, or vice versa.

Listen to what consumers want in exchange for their data: trust, transparency, and a sense of control

From the consumer standpoint, it matters whether information is offered willingly or not as this is what gives a sense of control over the data transaction.

Consent is a big part of building trust and transparency, and ultimately is what can create a stronger and long-lasting loyalty relationship between an organisation and a customer.

We tend to assign trust to the brands we like with the same lack of fear we exhibit lending our car keys to a friend.

Once there’s trust, a virtuous cycle can then set in and the benefits start to outweigh the ‘risk’, coming in the form of convenience and improved experience.

Treating customer’s personal information like any other currency, and pay them back with interest

As mentioned earlier, the components that make up the customer journey such as time, savings and reduced friction, are becoming increasingly commoditised. The currency consumers use to purchase that commodity is personal data – it’s their perspective as consumers, but as marketers trading on that value a shift needs to happen.

But like any other currency exchange, this ‘data vs. commodity’ transaction comes with some expectations.

Here are four ways to start creating a fairer data transaction framework:

  • Responsible use and privacy concerns are paramount, and these should be clearly stated, easily found, and strictly adhered to once terms are accepted
  • Communications should be personalised, but the level of familiarity in communication should match the level of affinity with the brand
  • Customers expect to be paid back for their investment (their data), with interest, and it’s not just about sending a generic follow-up email after a purchase
  • Marketers need to make certain every interaction is clear, tested and has the potential to increase a customer’s level of digital maturity. Emails also need to be combined with relevant offers that are crafted for their benefit. This is highly dependent on the details of the campaign and represents an excellent opportunity for A/B testing.

Each customer journey is presented with distractions, challenges, and delays. Planning a thoughtful customer journey with the right uses of personalisation and a genuine commitment to be transparent and pay the customer back for the data it provides is one of the best ways to create long lasting, loyal customer relationships.

John Yang

Vice President, APJ, Progress. John has over 30 years experience in technology, having worked for several large global organisations such as HP, CA Technologies and FalconSor Software where he led a wide range of technical and leadership positions across Asia.