As consumers, we have long left trails of data behind us. Our credit card firm has known what we spend money on where; and our mobile phone firm has known where we are whenever we have our phone with us. And both sets of data have been used by brands to personalise how they market to us, and the products and services they offer to us. With the rise of digital media and tools we are leaving and increasingly large data exhaust behind us and this offers increasing opportunities for brands to personalise how they deal with this. But any personalisation needs to be done with care.
The increasing volumes of social data available give brands an increasing opportunity to understand more about their consumers, their targets and those who are buying from their competitors. Those brands with more developed approaches to social media listening are now using this not to report on brand mentions but to identify and to better understand communities and individual customers. This can be used to better target advertising, or indeed to better design and recommend products and services.
But there is a problem with this approach – not the ability of the technology to use this data to personalise, but the fact that personalisation can come across as too intrusive to the very consumers we are hoping to better serve. In fact, personalisation is an area where the technology and data analytics is more developed than our will as consumers to accept it.
As more firms and services present the data we share online back to us – to personalise services, create personal data analytics or to help us track our progress with any activity – the more we become aware of quite how much data we share. And this can, at first, be disconcerting. We are not necessarily aware of all the data we leave behind us online and when this is shown back to us it can be shocking.
For brands to really use this data for personalisation they need to help us to overcome this shock and indeed to work with consumers to help them to understand the data that is being shared (and that the brand is using) and the benefits to them of this. Three simple, but effective, ways to do this are:
- Explain to consumers how you are able to personlise the offer – maybe by showing them the data you have on them, or by enabling them to see how they compare to others. You need to raise the consumers understanding of what you have been able to gather on them and how this is helping to provide a better product or service.
- Allow consumers to review and input into this data – as well as showing them how you have personalised your offer to them, you can also ask them to improve this data. If you have used Facebook data, for example, maybe allow them to review this and change how this influences the product or service – it may be that they only ‘Liked’ that sport or product as a joke, so they might not want things personalised based on it.
- Make sure your personalisations do actually improve your product – don’t just personalise things for the sake of it. Sometimes there are better ways of improving your product that will have greater impact on your brand, your sales or your profit. Perhaps rather than hyper-personalisation you should look to the mass-customisation models (such as Made); as with any use of digital tools and technologies – only personalise if it genuinely improves things for your consumers.