When does personalisation become too ‘creepy’?         

It’s amazing to think just how far the marketing industry has come with the utilisation of data over the last twenty years. It’s never been easy to collect customer data and implement it in innovative and personalised ways.

Just look at businesses like Wunderbly who are using NASA data intelligence to personalise storybooks for kids.

Or consider how GiffGaff speaks to their customers – they actually tell you in advance that you’re spending too much.  Not only that but they will offer to move you into cheaper deals more suited for your usage there and then. They don’t wait for you to check your data or call customer service.

There is No "One Size Fits All" in Marketing

There are of course no excuses to not use personalisation. As marketers we now have the chance to use endless tools and mediums to talk to our customers in relevant and timely ways.

Experian has previously stated in Personalisation in Marketing “there is no more ‘one size fits all for customers’, however is that really true? When we look at how and where marketing budget is spent is certainly still feels as though personalisation is treated as a marketing luxury and certainly not the norm. Just look at how much is still spent today on linear television and non-targeted OOH.

What could be wrong with utilising relevant and timely data to trigger stronger bonds to customers? As the technology that allows personalisation has evolved it certainly isn’t cost-prohibitive anymore.

But is there another underlying issue putting marketers off, i.e. a concern that customers might find being spoken to in a personalised manner creepy?

It is about using the right tone, at the right time through the right medium

It’s a fine line between ‘cool’ and ‘creepy’ in the ongoing personalisation debate and finding it the right balance is the trick to making your customers feel loved – both in your marketing and in the actual customer proposition.

You can create amazing, relevant, individual communications but if you send them with the wrong tone, at the wrong time or by the wrong medium you may as well not have sent them at all. In fact, they can do more harm than good.

Stalking is not the same as paying loving attention. Utilsiing a tone of confrontation (e.g. why did you leave? Forgotten something?) is not the same as helpfulness (e.g. ‘here are some items just for you’, ‘products you might like’).

Just as important as using the right tone is using the right format for your message. Sending someone an email saying happy birthday is not the same as sending a physical card. Ask yourself if a brand has taken the time to send you a happy anniversary/birthday message would you find that offensive or a nice touch?

Utilising a customer’s first and last name in direct mail and sending it 3 months after they’ve visited your site may stick out and seem a little odd. It certainly isn’t the same as sending a DM a couple of days after a customer has looked at those trainers and including interesting product info along with upsell opportunities based on what else they showed interest in.

Tips on How to Not Cross the Line from 'Cool' to 'Creepy'?

We have some handy tips based on our experiences of working with clients to date.

Love your customers by understanding how involved in your brand they are.
Talk to them in a tone of voice, and at intervals that make sense based on their involvement and your offering.
Finally, invest in your marketing as you wish your customers to invest in your business – don’t expect a marketing medium that costs next to nothing for eyeballs or an impression to be as effective and valued as one that costs a little more but will ultimately return strong investment.

Do all of the above and your customers won’t find you creepy at all. You’ll be one step closer to relevant marketing planning and effective utilisation of spend.

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