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Hyper-personalized customer experience for privacy: a trade-off we’re willing to make?


Welcome to the world of hyper-personalization: smartphones, wearable tech, and supermarket loyalty cards all know who you are, what you purchase, your location, and consumer habits. But can you have both personalization and privacy?

The hours we spend endlessly scrolling down multiple devices create a long trail of digital footprints that are beginning to impact our future. But this smorgasbord of data is also responsible for enhancing our experiences on everything from Netflix and Spotify to retail.

Supercookies can even track your deepest darkest secrets and desires when searching in incognito or privacy mode online. Hyper-personalization is a big marketing buzzword and is increasingly exciting for brands looking to deliver superior experiences. The practice typically involves analyzing browsing behavior and real-time data to provide the consumers with a personalized message when considering a purchase.

In the name of convenience, we allowed the big tech to take the hassle out of creating a music playlist, what we want to watch on a streaming service, or even our next Amazon purchase. As a result, our evolving expectations quickly developed a new benchmark for expected experiences everywhere else.

Hyper-personalizing the customer experience

It quickly became cool for guests to skip the long check-in line at a hotel and use their smartphone as their room key. Delta Airlines also jumped on the experience trend by sending passengers a push notification when their luggage has been loaded onto their flight and another message informing them which carousel to pick up their case upon landing.

A report by Epsilon revealed that 80% of consumers prefer to shop with a brand that provides a personalized experience. These sentiments were echoed by Accenture, which showed that 91% of shoppers prefer to purchase items from brands that not only remember their preferences but also provide them with relevant offers or recommendations.

By contrast, when personalization is not real-time, it will often be deemed irrelevant and even creepy. For example, a questionable marketing campaign targeted women with postcard-style ads while congratulating some on their pregnancy before they were even pregnant. In many cases, marketing companies and big tech will know about a woman's pregnancy before her parents. But things can take an even creepier and distasteful turn when marketing messages continue while a woman experiences complications or problems.

Equally, retailers that use facial recognition to identify customers and greet them by their name as they enter a store will quickly go beyond creepy and into the invasive territory. Even Netflix fell into the trap of offending users who felt their data was being misused.

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Can consumers have personalization and privacy?

Do you know anyone asking for more marketing messages and push notifications on their smartphone? Unfortunately, when tech-savvy consumers receive quantity over quality in marketing communications, they are much more likely to delete the app or unsubscribe from messages if they deem them intrusive. However, the reality is any brand that is not currently creating a hyper-personalized customer experience is already getting left behind.

Consumers' expectations now demand that interactions are personalized for their unique requirements rather than just for people like them. For example, nobody wants to receive an offer for a new pair of jeans after purchasing a new pair three days ago. But, delivering the relevant offer at the exact right time requires access to real-time behavioral data.

Welcome to the hyper-personalization paradox where brands could be forgiven for thinking they cannot win. They are challenged with understanding their customers across multiple touchpoints and devices to deliver the personalized experience they crave. One misstep and they risk being publicly humiliated and tagged as another one of those creepy companies to avoid.

Maybe it's time to admit that brands, businesses, and the increasing number of real-time hyper-personalization software providers do not have all the answers. Despite technological advances, the consumers are the experience makers who repeatedly ask the same question, what's in it for me? Humans, not algorithms, decide which brands they align with, trust, and promote on their timelines or newsfeeds.

Serendipitous discoveries in a hyper-personalized world

There is an opportunity for brands to be relevant to consumers by delivering hyper-personalized experiences without crossing the line. By getting the quality and tone of the content combined with the timing and delivery method right, consumers have a fighting chance of finally receiving the personalized services they demand without sacrificing their privacy. But should they be careful what they wish for?

In a world where the consumer is king, focus groups and algorithms ensure that everyone gets everything they want, but could the real casualty be serendipity? On the contrary, personal growth typically occurs when we explore the world beyond our narrow interests and accidentally discover surprising content, places, or products that sit outside of our usual interests.

The antidote to a hyper-personalized world is embracing spontaneity and daring to open yourself up to the unknown. The further shrinking of our areas of interest and limiting random discoveries makes me want to unpersonalize by stepping away from the algorithms and keep reaching for a serendipity button.

Behind the hype of personalization, the buzzword offers a timely reminder that too much of anything in life is not good for anyone. The bigger question is, how will you or your business find the right balance?


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