Study: When does personalization become creepy?

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Study: When does personalization become creepy?

By Dan Berthiaume - 03/22/2019
A new survey of 1,000 consumers reveals the line between effective personalized marketing and creepy invasiveness.

According to “Privacy & Personalization,” a study from multichannel behavioral marketing platform SmarterHQ, 74% of respondents say mobile push notifications are the most invasive channel because they view their phone as an everyday tool that’s part of their personal space. Other leading creepy personalization tactics include website chat popups that use artificial intelligence (AI) to communicate, as well as advertisements featuring products or brands a consumer has looked at online or on their phone.

Marketers need to carefully consider what consumers consider creepy, as 63% of respondents say they would stop purchasing products and services from companies that take “creepy” marketing too far.

Consumer preferences for brand communication also show a reluctance to use smartphones as a means of receiving marketing offers. A leading 51% of consumers say email is the best way for a brand to communicate, with social media second in line (25%). However, only 9% of respondents prefer text-based brand communications, with even old-fashioned mail (10%) being slightly more popular. Unsurprisingly given its high association with creepiness, only 3% of consumers say mobile push is the best way for brands to communicate with them.

Survey results also show a high degree of consumer privacy concerns. Eighty-six percent of respondents are concerned about their data privacy, and 79% believe companies know too much about them.

Despite these misgivings, 90% of consumers are willing to provide behavioral data for a better shopping experience. And 72% of respondents only engage with messages tailored to their interests, meaning almost three-quarters of consumers expect some level of behavioral tracking from marketers.

Those who shop more often find personalization marketing tactics 25% more helpful, and millennials and Gen Z trust companies with their data 47% more than Baby Boomers and Gen X. Interestingly, owners of smart home devices (i.e. Amazon Alexa, Google Home) are 16% less protective of their data privacy and 12% more trusting of companies collecting and using their data.

The survey also asked what brands consumers trust to use their personal data responsibly. Amazon has earned the most trust by a landslide — 48% of consumers trust Amazon to use their data responsibly, with this sentiment strongest among millennials and Gen Z. Apple and Google, two other companies that engage in retail, are each trusted with personal data by 27% of respondents.

Social media companies rank last on the list at 6%. One major contributor to this low score is that half of survey respondents know someone who has had their social media account hacked.