A marketer’s balancing act: privacy vs. personalization

Why and how brands can create targeted experiences while maintaining ethics and consumer trust.
Creative Data

By Brent Chaters

Thanks to data and technology, we now enjoy more streamlined and personalized digital experiences than ever before. But it’s not all smooth sailing – marketers need to pay close attention to the ongoing debate of privacy vs. personalization, as both sides demand a great degree of caution and a strategic balancing act.

Providing consumers with targeted, memorable and omnichannel experiences while upholding ethics and trust is particularly important at a time when global legislation such as GDPR enforces it.

In its 2019 Trends report, Fjord predicted a shift from companies maximizing on data to collecting minimal amounts of viable data. Yet we’ve often seen data personalization become borderline invasive, and ongoing digital transformations have shown just how far our personal information can travel.

There are three specific areas marketers should focus their attention to meet privacy and personalization in the middle.

Realize your actual needs.

One mistake many marketers make is saying, “Let’s go and collect all the data.” This is typically driven by a poor personalization strategy, or by the fear of needing data for something later on.

Éloïse Gratton, a Canadian privacy lawyer from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, echoes my belief that companies should decide what data they need, and whether they really need it, then implement measures to bring privacy risks down to an acceptable level. Traditionally we manage this through well-designed governance on data collecting, but also a keen focus on understanding customer experience and expectations.

Marketers should plan personalized experiences based on data they are confident they’ve collected and develop the strategies to collect this data transparently.

Make transparency an unmissable target.                  

Living in an age of always-connected, always-on devices, we often aren’t aware of what data we are generating. That’s why it’s more important than ever for companies to tap into mobile in increasingly unique ways. That requires a focus on ensuring and prioritizing transparency throughout the product or service development and consumer journey.

Both Disney and Carnival Corporation – two incredibly consumer-oriented brands – have looked to create seamless customer experiences by providing wearable magic bands and OceanMedallion, enabling everything from frictionless payments to a streamlined entrance and creating a whole new way for guests to enjoy their experience.

While many of the features in these wearable medallions and bracelets could run off a mobile device, there was a design decision to separate the capability to pay, open your schedule and more through a branded device. It forces a conscious connection of the utility of what you are looking to do, instead of being lost in all your other mobile apps. The element of transparency is therefore tangible and visible.

It’s also important that consumers not only agree to data collection but understand what they are opting into – otherwise it’s just one more checkbox they must click before they can get to their digital destination. This isn’t a question of best practice but rather something organizations must proactively do to avoid facing very real consequences, including potentially losing consumer trust and running into legal trouble.

Show value in action.

During an episode of Accenture’s Marketing Disrupted podcast, we talked with Loni Stark, senior director of strategy and product marketing for Adobe, who recommends companies not only be explicit about what data is being shared, but genuinely use it to improve the customer’s experience.

Loblaw has recently explored how to provide better value to loyal consumers and improve relevancy in advertising through Loblaw Media, giving customers more opportunities to earn points in the process. The digital aspects of these programs achieve bigger and better results by breeding loyalty, allowing companies to interact with customers more like friends than strangers, welcoming them right back into their digital arms.

Balancing privacy and personalization is achievable. Those that take on this challenge today will reach a new level of continuous insight and understanding needed to lead in the post-digital world.

Brent Chaters is digital customer & marketing transformation lead at Accenture in Canada.