Marketing personalization touches everything from the digital media we consume such as our Netflix queues and viewing histories to the transactional business relationships we maintain with financial institutions and cell phone carriers. The level of personalization that can be delivered in marketing communications depends on what you know about your customers and prospects. As marketers in the era of big data, however, it’s critical that we differentiate between personalization that builds consumer trust and the kind that erodes it – all while showing respect for our targets. Here are some guidelines.
A new study on consumer data and privacy conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) (n=1,002) provides valuable insights about what data consumers are willing to share with companies. Based on the study results, here are six insights you should consider when personalizing marketing communications.
1. Distinguish between standard and sensitive data points. While a majority of consumers are willing to share data such as their name, email address, gender and marital status with companies, they are much less inclined to share sensitive data such as digital locker access, social networking passwords and social security numbers. Even browser viewing histories and mobile data are considered sensitive.
2. Offer incentives for information. 73% of all respondents surveyed said they “agree somewhat” or “agree completely” that they would be willing to share personal information depending on the benefits they could get in exchange for their personal information, and nearly 60% of respondents are willing to share personal information in return for non-monetary goods or services.
3. Be transparent. Consider Target’s use of a pregnancy probability score to personalize marketing communications. When a teenage girl received a mailer marketing pregnancy items, Target knew before her own father that the girl was pregnant. Transparency and customer respect are key. The PwC study reports that 80% of survey respondents said they were willing to share personal information if the company lets them know up front how they are going to use it.
4. Apply segment-based personalization. This is a must-do, especially since younger consumers (aged 18-29) are more comfortable with sharing personal information than older consumers (aged 45-59). In general, older consumers are more cautious about to whom they disclose personal data. Different demographic segments have different behaviors and preferences with respect to sharing personal information, and personalization should reflect sensitivity to these preferences.
5. Leveraged personalized email. Consumers specifically look for emails from companies when they are ready to make a purchase. Segment your email list into personas and deliver personalized and relevant content to each persona using psychographic, demographic, shopper-graphic and ethnic composition as guides.
6. Provide collective opt-in/opt-out. According to the PwC study, “The vast majority of consumers want to be able to manage their personal preferences for all mobile and Internet services in one location.” Show respect by giving customers the ability to centrally manage their communications preferences and to discontinue communication and reinitiate it at a later time if they so choose.
Once you have gathered consumer data, you can craft messages using variable data fields to personalize marketing messages. Personalized marketing communications can be managed from within Marketing Resource Management systems and scheduled as drip and trigger campaigns to nurture customer relationships over time. Finally, MRM systems empower your distributed sales force to personalize marketing messages, while workflow approvals can help to streamline customization and compress the timeline for end-to-end campaign fulfillment.
Companies can foster consumer trust by respecting which data consumers see as highly sensitive and personal and by letting them know up front how they intend to use the data customers share with them. Offering non-monetary goods and services (such as not having to watch ads) in exchange for information, can help gather the consumer information needed for personalization. While personalization is powerful, how we ask for, and use, customer information is delicate. The PwC study reveals that consumers are willing to share more sensitive personal information when they know:
1. What personal information will be used
2. How it will be collected
3. What they will get in exchange for their information
What is your personalization strategy?