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Personalization Is Powerful — Here’s How To Make It Ethical, Too

Your customers trust you with their data. Make sure you have an ethical personalization strategy as data grows ever more central to customer relationships.

The average customer wants you to treat them like your number one. But, they also want you to protect the data they give you. [Visual Generation / Getty]
The average customer wants you to treat them like your number one. But, they also want you to protect the data they give you. [Visual Generation / Getty]

If you check your email right now, you’ll probably find an example of a personalization strategy. 

Perhaps a retail company followed up with you about a specific pair of shoes you were browsing. “Hey [Your name], we noticed you had the New Balance 574s in your cart. They’re now 50% off! Click here to check out.”

Experiences like these, where businesses use things they know about your online behavior — where you shop and how you engage with content — are increasingly common. That’s because measuring consumer behavior is one of the most efficient and effective marketing strategies. It’s a scenario where everyone wins — when the strategy works well. 

Consumers increasingly expect some level of personalization strategy when they browse. They also expect companies to respect their privacy, and handle their data in a lawful and ethical manner. So how do you walk that line? How do you use personal data but not abuse personal data? To start with, let ethics be your guide. 

How to build an ethical personalization strategy

The good news is, we’ve learned the ins and outs of using personalization tactics in an ethical way by making tweaks to our marketing strategies. We want to share those with you to help you get started.

The more transparent you are about your personalization strategy, the easier it is for customers to understand what data they should provide based on how it will be used. 

Collect and respect preferences

Your customers will share their data if they trust you. So, you need to build that trust by creating ways to collect, store, and act on your customers’ preferences based on the information they give you. The more transparent you are about your personalization strategy, the easier it is for them to understand what data they should provide based on how it will be used. 

Ask customers questions about how you can use their data. Can you use it to personalize offers during one shopping session? To send them deals down the line? If you get consent from consumers and use their information only the way they prefer, data becomes a way to share trust. 

Make sure you have the right audience

Demographic targeting often creates bias and fails to deliver the right messaging to the right people. Let’s say, for example, you target customers aged 55 and over in a campaign to boost sales of an anti-aging serum you’re overstocked on. You’ve introduced bias based on an assumption that only certain age groups are interested in looking younger, and you’re losing out on potential sales by limiting yourself to a demographic. That’s why it’s helpful to use interest-based targeting in your personalization strategy to match your products and services to those most likely interested in something similar. It also avoids reinforcing stereotypes that could have repercussions for your brand. 

No one wants to be blasted with emails from your business. But, they do appreciate the right message at the right time. 

Cap messaging frequency

No one wants to be blasted with emails from your business. But, they do appreciate the right message at the right time. That’s why less is more. When you focus on the quality and the timing of your emails, you build trust with your customer. You also cut down on wasted resources and time, as well as unwanted or unpersonalized emails that might lead to higher unsubscribe rates.  

What’s at stake? 

The average customer wants you to treat them like your number one. They want a unique experience and they want to be rewarded for their loyalty to your brand. But, they also want you to protect the data they give you. When those expectations aren’t met, you risk losing customers and alienating them from your brand for good. 

You must have a well-thought-out strategy as data grows ever more central to customer relationships and AI tools change how companies send information, handle service interactions, and manage the reputations of their brands.

Early adoption of data ethics best practices may even be an opportunity to reduce cost. If you have a poorly-managed or piecemeal personalization strategy, it will be expensive to fix — both in direct investment and in the damage that unsecured data or creepy marketing can do to your reputation. 

Build upon what you just read in this article and start creating your ethical personalized marketing strategy. Check out the Marketer’s Guide to Behavioral Messaging for more tips.

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