How Customers Really Feel About Personalization

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Over the past several weeks, I’ve published posts that reviewed the major findings of two recent research studies – one by Dynamic Yield, and one by Researchscape International – that focused on the current state of personalization in marketing. These studies were based on surveys of marketing professionals, so they captured the perspectives of individuals who are on the “selling side” of the personalization equation.

For obvious reasons, it’s important for marketers to understand how customers and prospects view the use of personalization, and two other recent studies address this critical issue.

The Periscope By McKinsey Study

Periscope By McKinsey is a unit of McKinsey & Company that provides a suite of marketing and sales analytics software. Consumers Value Personalization – Up Your Game to not Miss the Opportunity was based on a survey of 2,500 consumers located in the United States, France, Germany, and the UK.

In all four of the markets included in the study, more than 50% of the survey respondents said they frequently receive personalized messages. However, the markets differed in terms of how much consumers like receiving personalized communications. Fifty percent of the U.S. respondents said they really or somewhat like receiving personalized messages. French, UK, and German respondents were less enthusiastic, with only 38%, 37%, and 29%, respectively, feeling somewhat or very favorable toward personalized messages.

Attitudes toward personalization also varied by gender and age. For example:

  • In the U.S. and Germany, men feel more positively than women about receiving personalized messages, but the opposite is true in France and the UK.
  • Overall, younger consumers feel more positively than older consumers about receiving personalized communications.
The Periscope By McKinsey study also revealed that companies have a long way to go to get personalization consistently right. Overall, about 40% of survey respondents said they only sometimes receive personalized messages that truly feel personal, relevant, and intriguing. In addition, the number of respondents who said that personalized messages rarely or never feel truly personal exceeded the number of respondents who said they usually or often do.
The Accenture Interactive Study

Accenture Interactive has also published the results of a recent study about how consumers view personalization. The 2018 Personalization Pulse Check study consisted of a survey of 8,000 consumers from North America and Europe.

The Accenture research confirmed the potential impact of personalized marketing. Nearly all of the surveyed consumers (91%) said they are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations. Moreover, about eight out of ten of the survey respondents (83%) said they are willing to share their data to enable personalized experiences, so long as companies are transparent about how they use the data and give consumers control over it.

One important concern about personalized marketing is that it can feel invasive or “creepy.” The Accenture study found that this problem doesn’t occur frequently. Seventy-three percent of the surveyed consumers said that a business had never communicated with them online in a way that felt invasive.

Survey participants were also clear about what triggers the “creepy” factor. Of the 27% of respondents who reported having a brand experience that felt invasive, about two-thirds (64%) said it was because the brand had information about them that they had not knowingly shared with the brand directly.

The study report explains why this triggers such a strong response from consumers:  “Brand and consumer relationships are no different than their real-life counterparts. When one party goes outside of the relationship for information, the level of trust is completely broken.”

Finally, the Accenture study demonstrates that companies should be especially careful when using location data to personalize messages. When Accenture asked survey participants how creepy they found certain types of personalized marketing, 41% said it felt creepy when they received a text from a brand as they walked by a physical store, and 40% said it felt creepy when they got a mobile notification after walking by a store.

The Bottom Line

Taken together, these two studies make three important points about personalization. First, most consumers like and want personalized messages, and when it’s done correctly, personalization is a power marketing tool. Second, creating messages and offers that feel truly personal and relevant to potential buyers is hard, and most companies have more work to do to get this right. And third, companies must be particularly careful not to violate buyer trust when using personalized marketing.

Illustration courtesy of Phil Wolff via Flickr CC.

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