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You would think that personalization of content and ads would be a welcome tactic, considering how many people complain about irrelevant advertising.

But many marketers are concerned about crossing the line; of being seen as “Big Brother.” And not all customers are comfortable brands using their information in this way. A study by Ipsos found that 68% of U.S. smartphone users are concerned about having their online activity tracked in order for advertisers to serve them more targeted ads. 

So, how do you combat the idea that personalization is creepy? How can you create content, emails, and advertising that aligns with and matches the visitor’s mindset?

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We asked a few advertising executives why marketers should reconsider personalization and how they can use it as a tool for relevance. Here’s what they had to say.

Understand the Audience First

Marketers today must understand whom their audience is to determine how personalized to get. Digital natives tend to be more open to personalization because they’re aware that online activity can be public knowledge. That being said, we are currently in a transition phase. When retargeting technology was created in 2007, people were surprised when a product they searched for showed up on other sites around the web. Now, this is much less surprising. In fact, a recent survey cited that about half of consumers wished ads were more tailored to their interests and more than half expected to see personalized ads. Today the difference between ‘creepy’ and ‘not creepy’ is if an ad is so personalized it can only be for you. For example, an ad telling you to ‘buy diapers now because you’re giving birth in two weeks’ is much too, but an ad for diapers isn’t. Drawing the line between each is an art, not a science, and marketers must be always be considerate of their audience.

– James Green | Magnetic

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Add Value

Personalization can mean a lot of things, so it’s important to understand what a marketer thinks it is and how it’s creepy. This can often clear up initial concerns. Then for us, the guiding personalization principle is to figure out if and how it adds value to the end user. Today personalization enables a range of new behaviors and there are a lot of untapped and exciting opportunities to weave it into experiences and products that may not seem like an immediate fit. In the coming months and years, we’re going to see it become a powerful tool for building relationships and creating better ways to do things. Personalization has already changed so many categories, so it’s really about understanding how to get the most out of it for your brand or product.

– Paul Munkholm | Kettle

Increase Relevance

To marketers who argue that personalization is creepy, I ask: do you think Amazon is creepy?

If so, I’m not sure you really understand why websites and marketers personalize. It’s all about creating a better user experience for your site’s visitors and providing relevant information to the right people at the right time, not showing off your ability to track every move someone has taken on your site.

– Marc Herschberger | Revenue River Marketing

Make Visitors Feel Welcome

Personalization is only creepy if you make it creepy. Only use personalization in areas where people expect it (after opting in, in emails, etc.). The goal of personalization is to make a lead or customer feel welcome. The moment they feel welcomed on your site you have succeeded with personalization.

– Seth Fendley | ClearPivot

Compare Tracking to In-Store Behavior

When talking to marketers who think tracking and personalization are creepy, I like to compare their website to a brick-and-mortar store. You know when someone is window shopping, who has come in, and what products they are looking at. Tracking and personalization provide this level of service for the digital world.

– William McKee | Knowmad

Use Personalization as a Greeting

I will agree using personalization in the wrong way can be creepy as heck. However, thinking that all personalization is creepy is like saying knowing someone’s name is creepy. Can you imagine having a real-world conversation with someone who never used your name? Now that is creepy.

In the real world, we can see they have brown hair, blue eyes, and walk with swag. Personalization done right let’s them know that we know who they are and that we dig their wicked swag.

– George Thomas | The Sales Lion


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