Personalization vs. Privacy: Make a Case for Consent

Personalization vs. Privacy: Make a Case for Consent

The implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rocked the world of marketing as time-honored tactics like using gated content to collect email addresses for marketing purposes became illegal (and started carrying significant penalties). Now, an email address collected for one purpose can no longer be used for any other purpose without the consumer’s direct consent. That applies to other types of personal data, too. Whether it’s browser tracking data or a customer’s previous purchases, businesses have to get permission before using it for marketing messages.

Marketers have become accustomed to having almost unlimited access to data (even if they had to purchase it from third parties). So, it’s no wonder that heads were spinning after the May 25 implementation date. Now that the initial shock and rush to begin compliance efforts have passed. Marketers are starting to realize that they’ve been presented with a paradox that, in hindsight, should have been obvious. The demand for data privacy vs. the demand for personalization.

Consumers have conflicting demands

They demand data privacy

The GDPR and similar legislation in other parts of the world arose from consumer concerns about how much of their private data is floating around on the internet:

  • In a 2018 Veritas study, 92% of respondents indicated that they’re concerned about the security of their personal data, and 38% believe most businesses don’t know how to protect their data.
  • Research conducted by Gigya in 2017 revealed that 68% of U.S. consumers are concerned about how businesses use their personal data
  • A Verint International study revealed that nearly 9 out of 10 consumers say it’s vital to know how secure their personal data is, and 86% want to know if their data will be passed on to third parties for marketing uses.

But they also demand personalization

On the other hand, consumers really like the kind of personalization that so much data allows brands to deliver:

  • In the same Verint International study, 80% of consumers said they like it when a brand’s offerings are tailored to them and their personal needs or interests.
  • In an Adobe study, 67% of respondents said that it’s important for content to be personalized according to their current context, and 42% revealed that they’re annoyed when content isn’t personalized.
  • According to Salesforce Research’s “State of the Connected Customer” report, 76% of consumers expect brands to understand their needs and expectations.
  • 70% of consumers say that connected processes — such as seeing content and offerings based on previous interactions — are important.
  • Consumers are twice as likely to view offerings as important when they’re personalized.

No wonder marketers everywhere are scratching their heads! They’re trying to figure out how to satisfy demands that appear to be mutually exclusive.

But…are they really?

Privacy and personalization can co-exist

While it may seem like privacy and personalization have irreconcilable differences, it doesn’t have to be that way. Not only can privacy and personalization co-exist, but they can also flourish. The challenge for marketers is to clearly show consumers how the two are linked.

As digital governance advisor Kristina Podnar explains, “Today’s consumers are becoming more aware that their data has value. They expect to get something in return instead of just handing it over. For many consumers, that ‘something’ is personalization.”

Since organizations can’t deliver personalization without knowing something about the consumer, the key for marketers is to show consumers why trading data for personalization is in their best interests.

Making the case for consent

Despite the fact that the GDPR requires brands to use “plain language” in requests for consent, most marketers still treat it as a necessary evil — kind of like the list of possible side effects at the end of TV ads for pharmaceutical products.

Instead, why not approach it from the customers’ perspective and take the opportunity to tell them what they’ll gain by giving you consent to collect and process certain data? You might be surprised at the response. In one study, 79% of respondents said they’d be willing to share their personal data in exchange for a clear benefit. Digging a little deeper, 61% of Millennials will share personal data if it leads to a better shopping experience, and 58% will do so to enable product recommendations that meet their needs and interests.

So, instead of writing consent requests that scare people away, tell customers what’s in it for them. Try something like this:

“We understand that data privacy and security are important to you. (They’re important to us, too.) But we also know you don’t have time to waste on content and offers that don’t interest you. When you share information with us, we can show you content that you want to see — and the more data you share, the more closely our offerings will match your own interests, preferences, needs, etc. If you’d rather see messages created just for you instead of for the world at large, just click below to select the information that you consent to share.”

What makes this approach even more effective is that it creates a virtuous cycle. If you promise customers value in exchange for their data — and you deliver — they’ll be more likely to share additional data during the next touch point. And the more data you have, the more personalization you can offer.

Reinforcing your case at appropriate touchpoints

Some marketers think that many consumers who refuse consent don’t really understand what they’re refusing. With all the talk about data privacy, combined with frequent headlines about data breaches, saying “no” may be practically automatic.

But customers automatically refusing consent may start wondering why their online experiences aren’t quite the same. No more recommended products from their favorite retailers. And no more “based on your browsing history” recommendations from sites like Audible. No more personalized playlists like Spotify’s Daily Mix, etc.

Some savvy consumers may put two and two together. But many won’t make the connection to checking the “I do not give consent” box. That gives marketers the opportunity to bring them back to the fold by making the connection for them.

You can’t email them if they withheld consent, but you do have other options:

  • Presenting a popup on your site that says something along the lines of “Have you been wondering why you no longer see your favorite products when you visit our site?” And offers them another opportunity to opt into exchanging personal data for information.
  • Displaying a popup at checkout with a message like “If you’d like to see personalized recommendations the next time you shop with us.” And presenting consent options.
  • Or, for a really creative approach, you could take out an ad on social media. It says something like, “We would have offered you a great deal here, but you said we couldn’t. If you want to know what it is, click here to give us permission.”
  • And, you might not be able to email certain customers specifically for marketing purposes. The GDPR doesn’t prevent you from adding a footer to emailed receipts that remind customers of what they’re missing out on.

It’s all in the presentation

“It’s all in the presentation” is Marketing 101. But it’s easy to forget about that when you’re contemplating the implications of failing to honor data privacy. But that’s because you’re looking at it from your business’s perspective. You’re wondering how you’re going to drive sales when you no longer have unfettered access to consumers’ personal data.

The solution is simple: Turn the problem around. Look at it from the customers’ perspective. That will tell you everything you need to know to make the case for consent.

Editor’s Note: This post is by Patti Podnar, one of the top writers in the nDash community. To learn more about Patti — or to have her write for your brand — check out her nDash profile.