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December 18, 2021
Recently, Scott Clark of CMS Wire wrote an article discussing how personalized content online can become uncomfortable for the user. You might wonder if this is a blow-off topic, especially when hyper-personalization for things like email lists and recommended online content is so widely used and encouraged by content creators and user experience (UX) experts alike. But sometimes when the internet knows you too personally, it can, in fact, feel creepy. Today, we’re breaking down why that happens and ways you can get friendly with your target audience without crossing the line.
According to Deloitte, hyper-personalization is the most advanced way a company can tailor its marketing by targeting individual audience members. To achieve it, marketers and analytics specialists monitor user experiences online through social media, websites, e-commerce stores, and search histories to learn as much as they can about one particular consumer. To put it another way, these professionals are like private investigators looking to learn as much about you as possible to send the right message, at the right place and time, through the right channel. There is nothing coincidental about what they do.
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As marketing in a particular channel becomes more competitive, more brands try to use hyper-personalization to win over their audience. Why would you want to scroll through eight pages of products in an e-commerce store when you could receive a targeted ad from your favorite store on Instagram, showing you five pieces of clothing you love? Often, the intent behind hyper-personalization comes from a good place: saving time and providing the consumer exactly what they want or need. This can increase brand loyalty, customer satisfaction, and marketing effectiveness.
According to a SmarterHQ study, 72% of consumers say they only engage with personalized messaging from brands and marketers. But why? What’s so appealing about personalization that three-quarters of consumers look at this information only? As we said, it saves consumers time. When you buy something online and the retailer sends you an email of products related to what you already bought, you don’t have to do any research for your next purchase. The brand took the guesswork out of it for you.
Seeing content you already like online is also exciting. Take Instagram’s curated discovery feed, for example. If I like one post about Law and Order, I can go into the discovery feed and scroll endlessly through screencaps and clips of my favorite scenes until it’s an hour later and I’ve forgotten anything exists outside of New York City’s 16th precinct. And Instagram has done its job because I’ve stayed on their service longer than intended.
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Hyper-personalization also makes your audience feel seen. This is especially true in the age of social media, where anyone, not just a celebrity, can stake out a piece of real estate online and share their own content and opinions. We, as consumers, then feel entitled to be viewed as individuals and that our needs shouldn’t get swallowed up into a collective crowd. Seeing our names on emails or references to our favorite products around the internet makes us feel like someone out there gets us and makes us more sympathetic to that brand’s marketing efforts.
But where’s the line? When does hyper-personalization go from cute to creepy? Each person has their own threshold for what type of marketing behavior is creepy online. But the bottom line is, the consumer is always right. Some people might feel getting any targeted ads at all is too much, while others have a higher tolerance. For brands, it’s helpful to aim somewhere between minimal targeting and being too invasive.
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Consider, for example, things a date may remember about you. If you tell them on a first date that you enjoy a certain dish at a restaurant and they remember it on the fifth, that’s cute. But if you posted about that favorite dish once on Instagram three years ago but never talked about it and they bring it up in conversation, that’s creepy. The line for marketers, then, is only monitoring information the consumer tells you and permits you to track.
Use these three tips to help customers enjoy your hyper-personalization tactics:
As we said, hyper-personalization can be less creepy when the audience has informed consent about the data you collect. Sure, users might blindly click the “accept all cookies” button on your website, giving you access to everything you want. But isn’t that sneaky? Being more transparent about the data you collect, plus giving options to opt-out of certain tracking, may help increase brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.
Some platforms and services lend themselves better to non-creepy personalization. Social media feeds with recommended posts are an example of one because they curate content based on your likes, comments, and reactions on one platform. E-commerce sites and their emails may work too for that same reason.
If you doubt whether your hyper-personalized content is hitting the mark, test and monitor the outcomes to see what works with your audience. You can change the type of personalization, the wording, delivery methods, and other factors to see what creates more conversions or engagement. Those insights can help you perfect your future hyper-personalization content and campaigns.
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