Do you ever feel like brands know way too much about you? When was the last time you heard someone say, “I swear my phone is listening to my conversations”? Privacy and authenticity are becoming increasingly hot topics.
As highlighted in the Netflix documentary, The Great Hack, which profiled Cambridge Analytica’s unapproved use of Facebook’s user data, customers can feel betrayed and taken advantage of when privacy and authenticity are not valued by the companies they interact with.
This and many similar incidents have caused a shift in customer sentiment, causing people to care more about how brands use their data and be more inclined to think deeply about how brands treat them and others as customers.
Merkle’s Consumer Experience Sentiment Report explores how brands can navigate this tricky landscape and better serve customers while honoring their desire for privacy, authenticity, and respect.
In our research, we wanted to really understand the online shopper’s preference for how brands balanced customer privacy and personalization. There truly is a tradeoff, and finding the right balance is critical.
So, where is the sweet spot between uninformed, non-relevant mass marketing and over-personalization, like when Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did?
While almost all respondents (87%) indicated that they are willing to share at least some information in order to gain a more tailored online experience, companies need to be very tactful in how they capture this information and relay it back to the customer to avoid the perception of invasiveness.
When surveyed, about half of the respondents indicated that they felt brands knew too much about them. Interestingly, it was older, wealthy males who had the lowest tolerance for the invasion of their privacy.
Based on this learning, brands must leverage only the necessary information to enable personalization while being mindful about what types of information will feel invasive based on their audience.
So, exactly what types of data are people comfortable with sharing? And what are they comfortable with brands using that data for?
According to our findings, customers felt the most comfortable sharing satisfaction metrics, demographic data, and product usage data.
And they were most comfortable with companies using their data for enhancing the shopping experience, delivering more targeted or relevant advertising, and customizing online profiles.
One approach to safely enhancing online experiences without the risk of invasiveness is to directly ask respondents to provide this information.
Nearly three out of four people are willing to complete a 60-second survey when they first visit a website if it means a more relevant and personalized experience.
This is even higher for those who are younger as well as for women. A quick, upfront questionnaire is a simple way for brands to collect information to deliver a tailored customer experience from voluntarily provided data and help taper any feelings of intrusiveness.
In addition to understanding customer perceptions around privacy, Merkle also looked into authenticity and respect when it comes to brand choice and loyalty.
It can be as simple as customers noticing the divergence between what a brand says and what a brand does. With the amount of information at customers’ fingertips, it will be noticed.
When considering this space and the rising customer expectations, keep this in mind, “You don’t have to be amazing. But you do have to be authentic.”
So how does a brand achieve this sense of authenticity?
Customers view brands as authentic when they show their support of social causes through monetary and in-kind donations (actually caring), openly shar business objectives (transparency and communication), and use diverse people within media and advertising (relevancy and thoughtfulness).
Nearly one-third of customers have also received messages they considered offensive or tone-deaf. Men and those in high-income brackets were more likely to claim that they have received this tone-deaf messaging.
This crystalizes the need to really understand the audience you have and the audience you want.
Younger people and females are more open to sharing personal information in return for better personalization than their counterparts. However, brands must create a gentle balance of enabling relevant personalization and avoiding tactics that seem too invasive.
Respondents value the ability to recognize what personal data is used by brands and where that data comes from – making them keen to take a short demographic survey or have their past purchase information leveraged to enable personalization.
For brands to feel more authentic to customers, they need to avoid empty statements and show that what they say and what they do are aligned. The better you understand your customers, the better experience you can deliver.
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