Personalization vs. Privacy: Is There a Conflict of Interest?

Personalization vs. Privacy: Is There a Conflict of Interest?

The frightening precision of curated playlists, the eeriness of seeing a retargeted ad immediately after a search, the near-psychic refinement of algorithms serving you up exactly what you wanted to watch before you even knew it.   These are commonplace issues in today’s digital consumer landscape and all point to a single underlying dilemma – the perceived lack of privacy in personalized content.   When consumers hand over their data to marketers, there is an expectation that it will first be secure, and second, ultimately be used to improve their customer experience.
That’s why the perceived lack of privacy can feel like such an affront and why 75% of consumers find many forms of marketing personalization at least somewhat creepy.  
However, complicating rising privacy concerns around personalized content is that humans, ever-complex, are never ones to shy away from psychological dissonance.   So despite all our privacy concerns, we still deeply crave personalized content.    

Personalization, at a distance 

Whether we like it or not, personalization as a marketing tactic has a stickiness that works: almost half of those involved in the above study said they wouldn’t do anything about the “creepiness” and would continue to shop with the brand.   Not just that but, across all industries, consumers are demanding more personalization, not less
91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them, while 72% of consumers say they only engage with personalized messaging 
Look no further than the meteoric rise in popularity, adoration, and stock prices of such brands as Netflix and Spotify, successful precisely because they have perfected the art of personalization.  Despite the somewhat contradictory feelings it evokes, personalized content remains a very powerful marketing tool and is here to stay. So, given both its effectiveness, ubiquity, and resilience, how do we get over personalization’s privacy paradox?   

Solving the paradox 

It is a child-rearing tool, a maxim across all religions, and the foundation of long-lasting relationships: “honesty is the best policy” is a universal idea that is no less true in a digital landscape that has its own fair share of ethical dilemmas.   When you disclose your honest intentions, people see you as more real, and this authenticity is the bridge to building trust. In the context of marketing personalization, simply being honest about how you’re using your customers’ data will help close the trust gap that would otherwise leave this bridge on shaky ground.   Marketers need to be upfront with their customers, who will appreciate the candor and won’t make a big deal about their data as long as they know why and how it is being used. But nobody likes a sneak, and if you try to keep in them in the dark, you’re squandering that trust and burning your bridges.   

The delicate art of transparency 

Here are some ways that you can practice the kind of transparency that goes into nurturing honest relationships with your customers:  
    • Be crystal clear. Burying data usage terms in small-type, jargon-filled legalese is conspicuously suspicious. So go against the grain here and state exactly how customer data will be used, with whom it will be shared, and for what purpose. 
    • Choice matters. Having choices imparts to people a positive sense of control, so give customers options in terms of what data they want to share. You run the risk of cutting them off certain personalized experiences, but if your content is good enough, they might think otherwise. 
    • Intruder alert. Avoid personalized offerings that require intrusive personal details or that could expose overly sensitive data to outside and undisclosed parties. Remember, your personalized content should never put you in potentially compromising legal situations.  
And whether you’re retargeting ads or harnessing the power of interactive video to tailor personalized content to your customer’s specific needs, the same principles apply when it comes to data privacy.  

Finding the balance 

Privacy is, understandably, an anxiety-inducing concern for many people, something that marketers should always keep top of mind as they strive towards meeting the expectations of a public still wanting personalized offerings.  
But with the right attitude and the right tools, marketers can overcome the privacy challenges of personalized content as long as they are transparent about their data intentions and get permission from customers where applicable.  
With the array of digital options available to them – especially in channels like personalized video, whose platforms are often purpose-built with privacy concerns in mind – marketers can rest assured they’ll find a healthy balance that leaves everyone satisfied.  And hitting that sweet spot, you’ll avoid infringing customer privacy without sacrificing the boundless opportunities of personalized content.