Personalization in the Age of Consumer Privacy

Personalization|10 Minute Read

Personalization in the Age of Consumer Privacy

The goal posts for successful personalization have been moved for all marketers today.

More broadly, the rules of the personalized marketing “game” — especially those pertaining to privacy — have changed for just about every digital marketing professional worldwide.

A trio of McKinsey partners who conducted a survey on consumer data and personalization described how the new landscape offers equal parts opportunity and risk for brands today:

“User data provides companies with rich opportunities for creating personalized experiences and tailoring services to customer needs. At the same time, recent high-profile abuses of consumer data have raised concerns over how companies can strike the right balance between personalization and privacy.”

Emerging consumer privacy laws (namely GDPR and the CCPA), new browser privacy changes (such as Apple’s ITP), and a general lack of brand trust from consumers (many of whom are skeptical of sharing personal information with companies) have sparked an entirely new era of marketing for businesses.

In this era, marketers need to be careful about how they obtain and maintain customer consent and eventually activate that consented data in personalized (and individualized) messages across channels.

Moreover, these marketing pros need to ensure they respect the preferences of any and all prospects and customers who withdraw consent or change their preferences over time.

These data-oriented changes will certainly continue to alter the marketing landscape for some time. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible for marketers like you to offer highly personalized (and high-converting) content and product recommendations via advertising, email, and website messaging.

As long as marketing pros such as yourself implement a comprehensive consent management approach and use the right martech — starting with the customer data platform (CDP) — they will continue to extract value from their personalization programs and meet their critical marketing KPIs.

Let’s examine what it takes to build and consistently improve upon a top-class personalization strategy in an age of increasing consumer privacy and barriers to targeted marketing success.


What is personalization in 2020? The top marketing insiders weigh in

The Association of National Advertisers named “Personalization” its Word of the Year in 2019 — an indication of the marketing approach’s popularity and importance for brands’ advertising today.

What’s more, 80% of consumer respondents of a recent Epsilon survey stated they’re more likely to buy from a business if they receive regularly “personalized experiences” from them.

And yet, according to Gartner, the same percentage of digital marketing professionals who have devoted resources to personalization strategies will abandon them by 2025 due to insufficient ROI.

The biggest obstacle to achieving marketing ROI through personalized marketing campaigns and messaging? Per the research, “weaknesses in data collection, integration and protection.”

And with new data privacy laws amplifying the need for a comprehensive collection and protection strategy, personal data and its treatment is only becoming more complicated for companies.

These opposing viewpoints beg the questions: “What is personalization today? And how exactly do marketers make the most of the tactic in the age of growing consumer privacy and distrust?”

Here’s what digital experts have to say about the present and future of personalization and what modern marketers can do to adjust to the “new normal” of consent-driven marketing strategies:

  • Forrester VP, Group Director Melissa Parrish and Analyst Steph Liu stated marketers “must grapple with how they can serve consumers’ individual needs, expressed on the customers’ own terms” in 2020 and beyond to win and retain their trust and business over the long haul.
  • Marwick Marketing CEO Christian Thomson wrote for Forbes that “2020 is going to be the year of personalized marketing,” adding consumers will continue to “tune out” generic ads with little to no relevance to their wants and needs and engage more personalized messages.
  • Franklin Sports Digital Marketing Analyst Aaron Seitz indicated at MarTech East 2019 the accumulation of first-party data in a single source of truth, like a CDP, allows brands to “decide what levers to pull with that data and … personalization” to best convert customers.
  • Gartner Senior Principal Advisor Eleni Lee explained that, in the “era of Data Veracity,” speed and accuracy now take precedence with marketers’ personalization efforts. Segmenting high-value audiences and accounts and customizing content to them is paramount, she added.
  • SAP CMO Kevin Cochrane noted in Harvard Business Review that building (or rebuilding) trust with one’s audience requires ditching third-party data and implementing transparent personalization activities in which the value exchange is clearly explained to visitors, leads, and customers.

Personalization is clearly viewed differently based on one’s niche, industry, and goals.

One commonly shared perception among these individuals and others top marketers across the globe, though, is that “winning” with a personalization strategy is still very much possible today — even with the demise of third-party cookies, rollout of new data privacy regulations, and rise in consumer pessimism.

And the CDP is the martech of choice for many brands looking to improve their personalization.


Benefits of personalized marketing remain numerous for brands today

Increased email marketing open rates. Higher conversion rates from integrated marketing campaigns. A better customer experience for (and greater customer satisfaction among) existing buyers.

The pros of personalized content and product recommendations to both distinct buyer segments and individual customers who consent to receive such offers remain many for marketers.

The key to see their marketing metrics — and, in turn, help their organization’s sales — continue to move up and to the right lies in testing, optimizing, and refining their personalized marketing with marketing technology that unifies all customer profiles and associated details in a single database.

Enter the CDP, which allows you to not only streamline this perpetual personalization polishing, but also do so in a consent-driven fashion that puts customers’ preferences at the forefront of your efforts.

Tactic #1: Targeted ads to current, prospective customers

The efficacy of targeted advertising varies widely by sector. All in all, though, it seems consumers at large are receptive to receiving ads — so long as they serve relevant, timely messaging to them.

Adlucent research shows 71% of internet users prefer advertising that factors in their particular shopping interests and buying habits (e.g., purchase history and product pages viewed).

However, marketers need to be precise and consider their audience’s reception to promotional messaging, as three-quarters of these same users mentioned they want to see fewer ads altogether.

It’s this sometimes-tricky balance marketers need to realize with their advertising in order to get the most bang for the buck on Facebook, Google, and all other ad platforms they use to secure business.

Thankfully, with a CDP like BlueConic, marketers who run advertising for their organizations get the single customer view of all contacts and present ads attuned to their interest and interactions.

Additionally, users of our customer data platform can figure out which individuals and  segments tend to engage most with ads, which don’t, and, in turn, modify their ad targeting and reallocate their ad spend accordingly (a prickly pain point for many digital marketers, including and especially CMOs).

For instance, BlueConic customers can see the engagement histories of every person in their unified database, bucket them accordingly based on traits and behaviors (e.g., repeat buyers of high-ticket items, returning visitors who’ve never purchased, individuals with sizable CLV, etc.) — compiled across all channels, and, eventually, activate that data in ongoing pay-per-click and display campaigns.


Tactic #2: Real-time, customized site messaging to users

In addition to building trust with and earning business from your audience via timely, personalized ads, you can also develop tailored, on-site dialogues that keep your visitors — including and especially those who arrived via your advertising efforts — around longer, get them to engage with previously viewed and additional product pages, and, hopefully, convert them.

BlueConic customer, which is the tourism arm for Bend, Oregon, recently put personalization at the forefront of its website re-launch. Serving up personalized, on-site messaging to promote deals to users based on past engagement contributed to a 15% bump in returning visitors.

The tourism brand didn’t stop there. It also encouraged repeat visitors to create accounts, thus giving the ability to offer even richer, individualized experiences upon subsequent sessions and based on saved itineraries of those visitors and their persistently updated BlueConic profiles.

Whatever type of organization you are — global retailer, national publisher, enterprise SaaS company — you can take advantage of content and product recommendation engines like those offered in BlueConic to better resonate with visitors.

The key, again, is to solely personalize marketing messaging to those contacts who’ve explicitly expressed interest in a given products or services and allows you to market to them across channels.

Lightboxes, forms, notifications, and other types of on-site dialogues will only work when populated for site users who’ve provided consent and you know would be interested in a particular offer.

For instance, BlueConic customers can bucket consented prospects who have checked out the product page for a specific piece or kind of merchandise at least three times in the last 30 days, then personalize pop-up lightboxes or notifications on subsequent site visits to entice them to buy then and there or convert in some other manner (e.g., form submission).

personalized recommendations

Tactic #3: Personalized emails based on engagement

And then there’s your email marketing program.

In the past, it may have proven difficult for you and your team to deliver the most compelling and pertinent personalized content to your audience in real time (or as close to real time as possible), given your contacts’ engagement with your online and offline presence can change so suddenly, thus rendering some, most, or all of your personalized recommendations ill-suited to them.

Simply put, that’s not the case when you have customer data platform such as BlueConic that offers advanced personalization features like open-time email recommendations.

With this feature, BlueConic customers can alter the content and product recommendations featured in an email to specific segments to promote solely the most relevant items to their recipients.

Let’s say you want to send a product update email promoting new items in your ecommerce store.

By setting rules for your open-time email recommendations in BlueConic (primary content to share first, then “fallback” options) and adding a simple HTML code snippet into the editor of your email service provider (BlueConic integrates with all major ones), each recipient of that email will only see the items that most directly interest them based on their dynamically updated customer profiles.

That means you won’t promote products they have minimal or zero interest in, past products they’ve bought, or any other suggested items or content that wouldn’t appeal to them. Rather, you deliver timely, persuasive emails that “update” in the background up until the second contacts open them.

Among the many email marketing best practices you ought to follow day in and day out, we’d say sending the most personalized and appropriate emails possible is right at the top of that list — especially given it’s a great way to show recipients (see: leads and customers) you care about delivering only relevant content and product recommendations to them.


Perfecting personalization (and individualization) with a CDP

Promote only the most popular articles from your publication over the last week to readers. Serve lookalike ads to anonymous visitors as they peruse product pages for similar items. Convince cart abandoners to finish shopping and check out related items to ones they’ve viewed recently.

All of these personalization tactics can be implemented, tracked, perfected, and repeated with a pure-play customer data platform — one meant for marketers to own and operate all on their own.

Of course, it’s not all about just personalization today. Businesses of all shapes and sizes can benefit from “hyper-personalization” strategies (i.e., individualized marketing).

Promoting products and content to large groups of customers makes sense for many companies. But individualizing deals to specific people in one’s system is sometimes a greater need for others.

Whether you have dozens of segments you market to differently or dozens of contacts in your database altogether you want to convert, the CDP is the platform modern marketers invest in to achieve their business goals, boost their marketing ROI, and — in the age of growing consumer privacy — build trust with their audiences through consented personalization strategies.

personalization strategy

See what BlueConic can do for you.

Whether you’re looking for operational efficiencies or improved marketing effectiveness through data activation, our customer data platform can help.