By Amit Kursija Oct 29, 2014 0

The creep line: when does marketing personalization become too personal?

If you’re collecting and leveraging behavioral targeting or remarketing, we don’t have to tell you that these are key to boosting your sales and staying competitive. Studies have shown that at least half of companies consider personalization crucial to their digital strategies, and that customers even expect some level of personalization in the marketing messages they receive. So how are companies to find a balance between cashing in on customer data, and totally creeping them out?

It’s a fine line to walk. We may never be able to clearly “define” that data creep line due to different users’ thresholds. But if you get in the habit of asking these questions, you’re more likely to earn customers’ trust and not scare them away.

  1. Is the data secure? Probably a no-brainer. But in an age of rampant (and legitimate) identity theft fears, your customers need to know you’ve taken precautions to secure their personal information. If you have, make sure you’re explaining this on your website.?
  2. What is the value exchange? Customers will be much more willing to give up personal data if something’s in it for them. Let’s say you’re asking for the customer’s date of birth in their profile, or in the checkout process. She’ll be much more willing to expose this information if she knows she’ll get a coupon each year on her birthday.
  3. Are you targeting based on data that could be sensitive or offensive? Where sensitive topics are concerned, use caution. Potentially risky data points: religious beliefs, income, political leanings, marriage/relationship status, and any personal vices s/he may have. Use common sense. Would you be shocked if a company knew certain information about you, without you volunteering it?
  4. Are you using information that’s been (explicitly) volunteered? In most cases (including potentially sensitive cases listed above), it’s fine to target a customer based on just about any attribute – as long as they’ve volunteered the personal information, and are aware that they’re opting into communications. Of course, always provide a simple opt-out option.
  5. Are you transparent about how information is being used? Provide a statement in your terms of use and/or privacy policy, explicitly stating how customer data is used (and not used). Don’t use legal jargon. Make it easy to understand. If you change your terms of service, make sure your customers are alerted and have a chance to view/accept.

Save the scaring for October 31. Follow these tactics (and your own common sense), and you’ll avoid creeping out your customers. Happy Halloween, everyone!

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