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7 Ways to Balance Personalization and Data Protection

Consumers like personalization, they really like it.  According to a Gartner study, “81% of consumers want brands to get to know them and understand when to approach them and when not to.” But consumers are also wary of sharing the data that marketers need to create their messages, as indicated by a study of 4000 consumers that showed that 68 percent of respondents are fearful of how marketers will use that data.

As a result, marketers are faced with having to create effective personalized content while simultaneously respecting their customers’ privacy – which, of course, is increasingly being protected by legislation.

Here are seven ways to make this critical balancing act successful:

1. Inform your customers about how you intend to use their data
“Generic opt-ins don’t cut it anymore,” writes ReachForce. “Consumers want to give explicit consent about what you use and how you use it, so pull back the curtain a bit and let them know how their data will help improve their experience as your customer.”

2. Just collect data that is relevant to your customers
“Collect only data that matters to your ability to personalize specific experiences – that your customer will value,” suggests Vince Jeffs at Customer Think. “For example, if you sell insurance, you don’t need to understand pet preferences unless you’re selling pet insurance. As you move into deeper levels of hyper-personalization, do so deliberately and methodically, fully grasping the implications before rolling out.”

3. Think like a shopkeeper
“Digital marketers need to apply the same social etiquette as if interacting with their consumer on a real-life, personal level,” writes Mollie Powles on the HubSpot blog. “For instance, a shop assistant will discuss preferences and requirements with a customer in a store in order to better understand their tastes and direct them to the relevant items in the shop to help them make an informed purchase. However, they will not then follow that customer for the rest of the day recording their shopping activity ready for their next visit, that would be absurd.”

4. Listen to your customers
“If customers don’t like something, they’ll let you know,” writes Ryan Myers at Entrepreneur. “It’s not hard to imagine ending up on a Buzzfeed list of creepiest marketing emails if you leverage the wrong data points. If there’s a clear pattern of disliking the use of a home address in solicitation emails, don’t use home addresses.”

5. Use surveys and other traditional data-collection methods, too
“Marketers should not forget that they can (and should) still gather information from customers the old-fashioned way – without digital surveillance,” according to the Harvard Business Review. “Supplementing less-transparent ways of using consumers’ information with more-open ones can decrease feelings of invasiveness. More important, it can also provide a richer picture of the customer, facilitating even better recommendations.”

6. Don’t do it just because technology allows it
“It’s important to keep in mind that just because technology makes something possible doesn’t mean it’s something a business should do,” writes Peter Roesler at “There are a lot of examples of businesses using data in new ways that, while technically amazing, turn away customers by being too intrusive. Facebook seems to find itself in such a situation every few months or so.”

7. Keep the data you collect to yourself
“Once customers entrust your brand with their personally identifiable information, it’s yours — and yours alone,” writes Mike Sands at MarTech Today. “Marketers must control who accesses a brand’s data, know exactly what is being done with it and ensure everything is handled in a privacy-compliant way.”

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