How to Personalize a Brand Experience Without Being Creepy

March 20th, 2014
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How to Personalize a Brand Experience Without Being Creepy Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasBrand personalization has never been more vital to providing a unique brand experience and capturing and maintaining customer loyalty. But with so much data available, it’s also easier to annoy or unnerve customers with over-personalized suggestions or communications. Here’s how to use your available data to provide a personalized user experience without seeming like Big Brother.

Be transparent

Inform your users as to what info you’re capturing, how you will use it, and who can see it.  Unnerving customers with specific, personal information on recommendations or personalized experiences will likely cause them to shy away from a brand instead of embrace it. So be transparent: ask for permission to use their data, and provide an opt-out.

Use data provided directly to your brand

It’s one thing to personalize experience based on data a customer has already provided to your brand, whether it’s a previously stated preference for a room on the lowest floor of your hotel or a purchase history that shows they buy the same product at regular intervals. But it’s another thing to use information they didn’t provide to your organization.

Social media posts that mention your brand directly also generally fall into the realm of usable for personalization, but tread carefully. At Qantas Airlines airport lounges, iPads alert staff members when a lounge guest posts content tagged from that location, even if the user doesn’t mention Qantas by name. Staff can then share certain posts with their own followers.

While those posts are public information, some users found that social listening off-putting, especially since, in the case of Qantas, they weren’t directly interacting with the brand on social media and Qantas does not alert their lounge members that such monitoring is in progress. (See: Be transparent)

Tread carefully with third-party data

Using third-party data from social media sites can quickly veer into “creepy” territory. If your brand wants to access, say, Facebook like information, it’s wise to consider clearly asking for permission. General rule: Unless a client clicks the “like” or “follow” button on your brand’s page, be very clear about your third-party data processes and consider using other personalization means.

Personalize better

In a national loyalty study, Maritz Loyalty Marketing found that while 94 percent of loyalty program members want to receive communications from the programs in which they participate, only 53 percent of those members found those communications personalized and relevant. Allow customers to help with that by providing the opportunity for them to customize their interactions with you, either by creating personalized interaction defaults or how they set up and manage a loyalty account. On The New York Times online, users can view recommendations for articles based on recently-viewed articles, and the site provides data on the sections and they view most, an excellent way for members to not only track their own usage, but also feel that The New York Times is pointing the way toward tailored content.

Be selective with the data you use

Big data has huge personalization potential, but brands must use it responsibly; just because you have access to certain data points about a user doesn’t mean that data should be used. Take for example the OfficeMax mailer addressed to “Mike Seay/Daughter Killed in Car Crash/Or Current Business.” Just as it’s important to know what big data metrics are most applicable to your company, it’s also vital to know which of those data points should be used in personalization.

How do you personalize your brand experience? Where do you think the line is between highly personalized and creepy?

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