Overcome the Personalization-Privacy Paradox

Exclusive research identifies why consumers don’t trust brands with their personal data

Consumers are rightfully concerned about privacy. If marketers don’t hustle to earn their trust, they’ll quickly see their customer base shrink. But at the same time, consumers are eager for personalized, intelligent engagement with their favorite brands. That’s why the privacy issue is not so black and white.

Exclusive research from Acquia uncovered a major disconnect between how much consumers want personalization and how strongly they feel about protecting their personal data. Nearly half (49 percent) of consumers said brands they engage with don’t meet their expectations for a good experience and 61 percent feel the brands that should know them, simply don’t, even lacking in the most basic areas of customer knowledge, such as purchase history and personal preferences.

Marketers find themselves in a paradox, stuck between delivering the levels of personalization consumers crave and finding ways to protect their privacy at the same time. Here are some ways to strike the right balance.

Earn consumer trust … even if you didn’t lose it

When privacy concerns and data breaches hit the front page, all brands need to actively work to gain trust, even if they did nothing to lose it in the first place. Chances are that if your credit card was part of the Target data breach, you’re thinking twice about charging your next big box store purchase. It’s the same thing across industries. If just one brand messes up, customers lose trust in companies as a whole. This means every brand needs to work diligently to earn consumer trust, even if their record is spotless.

The research shows that consumers are serious about keeping their private information safe. Just 11 percent said they are “very comfortable” sharing their data. Plus, 79 percent agreed brands should not use their data to market different things to them.

Strike the right balance

Brands need to find a way to deliver relevant marketing without crossing the privacy line. Sure, some customers will gladly welcome a sponsored post popping up on Instagram reminding them to place an order before the sale ends. However, other customers will think this crosses the line, sparking questions like, “Why are they following me?” It’s marketers’ duty to better understand customers as the specific people they are. By paying close attention to the data that’s available to them, marketers can better make informed decisions about what their individual customers want on a personal level.

It’s simple. If a customer hasn’t opened an email from you in more than three years and only purchased once to begin with, is it a wise decision to send them a push notification that it’s time to restock? Probably not.

Be transparent about your customer data practices

Trust comes from transparency, so always be open about what data you’re collecting and how you plan to use it. Don’t wait until a breach hits the headlines to have the conversation. Be upfront about what your company does to protect data and your customers will value your honesty.

Just collect the data that you need. Then prove it to your customers by using that data to deliver a great experience.

Employ both best practices and technology to protect customer data. Make data privacy a core competency and source of innovation for your brand.

As the consumer data privacy conversation continues, it’s up to marketers to find where they fit in. With 47 percent of consumers feeling uncomfortable with brands knowing things about them when they didn’t realize the brand had that information, marketers must check their activities to ensure they aren’t guilty of this.

At the end of the day, consumers want to feel like their favorite brands have their back and understand who they are as individuals. This feeling of confidence applies to all aspects of the customer experience, from making the right recommendations to being open about the security of their data.

As Acquia’s CMO, Lynne Capozzi oversees all global marketing functions including digital marketing, demand generation, operations, regional and field marketing, customer and partner marketing, events, vertical strategy, analyst relations, content and corporate communications. Lynne is one of Acquia’s boomerang stories, first serving as CMO in 2009, leaving in 2011 to pursue nonprofit work full-time, and returning in 2016 to lead the marketing organization into its next stage of growth.