What Marketers Need To Understand about Personalization

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In this article, Greg Heist, Chief Innovation Officer, Gongos, share insights from Gongos’ recent survey that explores consumer sentiment on privacy, trust, technology, and personalization. The survey also unveils unique insights that pinpoint the importance of customer-centricity and equality between generations and genders.

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As today’s brands hone their approaches to giving consumers customized products, tailored experiences and personalized recommendations, the process of achieving these standards typically means taking a valuable asset from consumers—their personal information.

Learn More: Connecting with Customers in 2020

To take the pulse of consumers, we asked men and women with ages across the Millennial, Gen-X and Baby Boomer generations to what extent they were willing to trade their personal data for convenient, customized and timely treatment from brands. The results revealed that more than half of Millennials, unlike their Gen X and Boomer counterparts, would offer their facial details and fingerprints if it meant:

  • a more convenient experience (55%); compared with Gen X (31%) and Boomers (20%).
  • customized products and services (55%); compared with Gen X (25%) and Boomers (16%).
  • real-time promotions (52%); compared with Gen X (23%) and Boomers (19%).
     

Consumers’ openness to relinquish highly-sensitive information demonstrates the increasing market value of personalization and in turn, the importance and pressure that will pair with ensuring to maintain and gain consumer trust. 

The Dichotomy of Trust

Given the massive data breaches in 2019 alone, including Facebook and Fortnite and the willingness of today’s consumers to share personal data with retailers is somewhat surprising. Further, our data illustrate a complicated relationship between consumers’ willingness and wariness to share. Take a look for yourself. 

Willing: 

  • 57% (across all generations surveyed) trust retailers over banks to protect their personal information. 
  • Beyond that, 37% trust retailers over any other institution we listed in the survey (including government, the healthcare system, social media friends) to protect their personal information. 
     

Wary: 

  • Millennials are 1.5 times more likely than Boomers, and 1.2 times more likely than Gen X, to delete all of their online retail accounts in order to have a fresh start and be more selective with companies in which they share information.
     

So, what does this really mean for brands and customers? Even though U.S. retailers surveyed more positively than other institutions on trust, the data here exposes a key caveat to a consumer’s willingness to share— caution. 

The Proliferation of Personalization 

For some time, one-to-one marketing has enjoyed prominence, especially for the Millennial and Gen Z generations – raised in a world of “hyper-personalization” in everything from smartphones to tailored apps. 

Some examples of successful implementation of this technique include Instagram providing their subscriber’s personalized shopping and influencer ads, Amazon offering product recommendations (reportedly to a 44% customer buy rate), and even Target’s reported sending of pregnancy-related promotions to female customers based on data merely predicting they were pregnant. 

While hyper-personalization has become a norm and expectation for many, at the same time, brands shouldn’t take this for granted. Such success can bring significant cost as well. 

Learn More: AI: The Magic Ingredient for Customer Experience in 2020

Millennials Strongly Desire Customization

Our survey suggested that Millennials show preference over other generations in customizable products and services. For example, more than half of Millennials surveyed (56%) said they would swap their current brand for a brand that customizes to them while only 26% of Boomers were likely to switch from their current brand. 

The high consumer appetite for customization is clearly shown here, and for brands to oblige, there needs to be an inflow of personal information. The consumers’ willingness to hand over personal data, however, is conditional. 

How Brands Can Achieve Balance: 

As a marketer, establishing consumer trust and tailoring experiences to them can be achieved by following these two pathways: 

  • Assess the meaning of “trust” to your customers. How is it defined by your customers? How strong is it to begin with, and what can you do to strengthen it further? For example, 44% of Millennials in our survey were willing to buy a company’s product if aware of its business practices, even if they didn’t agree with them.
     

The survey responses here highlight how brand transparency often serves as a key prerequisite to gaining consumer trust. But trust can carry different meanings for different brands and their respective consumers. That is, where one consumer may base their trust on the product itself, (such as the quality or ethics of its manufacturing) another may be more concerned with the authenticity of a brand’s marketing influencers. 

  • Cultivate authentic methods of personalization. How does personalization look, from your customers’ perspective? Our survey found that 75% of Millennial and Gen X respondents expect all digital marketing will be tailored to their preferences at all times within 3-5 years.
     

For this projection to become a future reality, it will be essential for brands to maintain a level of timeliness. For instance, it may initially make sense to push smartwatch ads to a customer that spends considerable time comparing smartwatch features and pricing online. But, following their purchase of a smartwatch, a different type of advertising becomes more appropriate – content around product use and maintenance. 

Furthermore, it helps for marketers to understand that personalization is not always linear, and correctly pinpointing the forms that provide the most value to your consumers is an ongoing process. 

The Bottom Line

Personalization is not a fleeting business trend: it is a marketing “must” that we can expect to continue for the foreseeable future. Ultimately, these findings speak to consumers’ hunger for a hyper-personalized approach to building a relationship with retailers and brands. And, it’s an incredibly powerful opportunity. But success or failure hinges on retailers developing a type of “fair value exchange” with consumers to ensure this opportunity translates into stronger loyalty, meaningful conversations and business growth.

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