Privacy and Personalization: How to Walk the Line When Marketing to Millennials

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

The modern business world is experiencing an intense tug-of-war between opposing consumer philosophies. 

On the one hand, customers want informed and personalized experiences tailored to their interests and needs. On the other hand, they want to protect their information and keep their identities secure as they navigate the increasingly complex 21st-century marketplace.

Business leaders must pay attention to this apparent dichotomy if they want to provide effective customer experiences moving forward. Let’s take a look at the two sides of the issue and consider ways to gather data to inform experiences without ticking customers off in the process.

The Need for Personalization

In the information age, consumers want personalized experiences.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with younger, tech-savvy generations. For instance, SmarterHQ reports that 70% of millennials get frustrated when brands send them irrelevant emails. This is something that happens often with antiquated, un-personalized marketing initiatives. As a counterpoint, when the average millennial receives a personalized message from a company, it increases brand loyalty by as much as 28%.

The younger your target audience, the more the need for personalization intensifies. When asked, 81% of Gen Zers replied that they want personalized ads. The trend toward individualized messages and personalized promotions isn’t just possible in this data-first era. It’s quickly becoming a requirement for success.

And yet, that’s only half of the story.

The Issue of Safety and Privacy as It Relates to Personalization

We may live in an information age, but consumers have made it clear that they don’t think data should be universally available. On the contrary, McKinsey reports that consumers are particularly unwilling to share data when it comes to transactions that they consider less important. Pew Research adds that 79% of adults report that they are “very or somewhat concerned about how companies are using the data they collect about them.”

The mistrust surrounding the exchange of personal information is well-warranted. Larger data breaches have become par for the course in recent years, with many coming through large corporations that harvested customer data for years. In addition, the statistics surrounding cybercrimes like identity theft continue to skyrocket.

This erodes trust and prompts many consumers to safeguard their information whenever possible (even if they clamor for personalized experiences in the next breath). The question is, how can companies safely navigate this two-edged sword of personalization and privacy?

Building a Respectful Strategy to Personalize Customer Experiences

If brands want to attract customers, they must find ways to personalize their interactions with their target audience. At the same time, data security is a factor that they need to both prioritize and communicate to customers. 

On the surface, this creates a dilemma. For many business leaders, it appears that the only choice is to address one item at the expense of the other. But the truth is, it’s still possible to create a safe and respectful customer experience that is also personalized. However, it requires a thoughtful and strategic approach.

This starts with the collection of the right kind of data.

Gathering Customer Data the Right Way

For a long time, third-party cookies have been one of the key elements eroding customer trust in data collection. In a nutshell, cookies collect customer data while someone is on a website. Third-party cookies consist of entities other than a website owner that are collecting and repurposing data without the consent of a website visitor. 

Third-party cookies are currently being phased out, which is a huge win for consumer privacy. However, it also means companies must start to proactively collect customer data if they want to keep their interactions personalized. This direct and above-board gathering of information is referred to as first-party data, and there are several ways to collect it, including:

  • Surveys
  • Customer accounts
  • Branded mobile apps
  • Text messages
  • Customer service interactions
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software

These are all common ways businesses can go straight to their customers to ask for their information. While this gathers data without ticking off consumers, though, it’s only part of the solution.

Finding the Tools to Optimize That Hard-Earned Information

As businesses collect first-party data from their customers in an honest and up-front manner, they must find the tools to optimize that information. One example of this is

The brand creates retention marketing software solutions that utilize clean, safe customer data to personalize business interactions. For instance, if a customer leaves a cart without checking out, the personalized marketing solution can send an abandoned cart message to improve what the company refers to as “abandonment revenue.” The software helps in similar ways with things like email and SMS, too.

Between clean collection and optimized utilization of first-party data, businesses can still create personalized experiences for their customers without compromising their privacy. This is good news for any organization looking for ways to continue to thrive in an information-heavy, tech-driven era where fickle consumer expectations continue to refine how businesses and their marketing departments operate.

Image credit: Anete Lusina; Pexels

About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.