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Business and Technology Insights

How Far is Too Far? The Perils of Personalization in the Digital Age

 
October 27, 2017

In the age of digitalization, every company knows the benefits of personalization and has toyed with the idea, in a bid to improve their customer’s experience. Technology makes it possible and innovative platforms make it simple, but it is up to companies to determine how much personalization is right. You want your representatives to delight your customers by addressing them by name, but not frighten them by revealing what they ordered last summer.

To some degree, customers have also come to expect it and aren’t surprised  when the customer care executives address them by name, and are aware of  their tastes and preferences – or when Netflix helps them find shows they might  like to watch.

 For the most parts, personalization works wonders – but sometimes it creeps  people out.

 Channel 4 recently demonstrated capabilities allowing advertisers to address  their viewers by name through an ‘audio personalized digital ad campaign’.  Snapchat announced a partnership with Oracle Data Cloud to allow companies  to target customers using data from offline purchases. These are a few examples of technologies that enable companies to personalize their interactions with customers, within and outside their own platforms.  Nevertheless, it is the company’s responsibility to use technology appropriately – to wow their customers and win more of their business, instead of alienating them.

As managers, it’s easy to get carried away with the possibilities but success will come to those who understand their customer’s needs and offer just the right amount of personalization. That balance might sound like the pursuit of Zen but for starters, here are some key ‘sins’ organizations must steer clear of when they think of personalization:

  1. Breaking bonds: Sharing or selling of customer information without their explicit consent is a breach of trust and is looked down upon.
  2. Digging too deep: Correlating personal and behavioral data to personalize advertisements on third-party sites makes customers uncomfortable.
  3. Helicoptering: Tracking customers to monitor their location, matching it with records of their prior purchases, and then sending them personalized offers, can make customers restless.
  4. Overcrowding: Sending too many personalized marketing messages to a customer from various divisions of your business can make them feel harassed.
  5. Category jumping: Combining multiple topics that aren’t logically connected within marketing messages can creep out your customers.
  6. Boudoir topics: Exploiting sensitive situations to create personalized offers for customers might leave customers with a bad taste in their mouth.
  7. Moral hazards: Using technically legal but socially inappropriate tactics to market to your customers could reflect poorly on your brand, if revealed.

You should work on personalizing your customer experience to influence without alienating them. If you’d like some advice on how exactly you could do that, read my articlePersonalization Boundaries: Tuning In to Customers Without Turning Them Off in Perspectives,our consulting journal.

Dave Anderson is a Partner in TCS’s Enterprise Transformation practice, advising clients in the creation of transformative marketing, sales, and customer experience solutions. Mr. Anderson has 20 years experience in advising clients in the areas of sales execution and channel optimization, digital customer engagement, organizational transformation strategies. Mr. Anderson has held Sr. Leadership roles with IBM, Motorola, and LoudCloud. He holds a MBA with a focus on Strategy, Innovation, and Finance from the University of Michigan.