Perhaps unsurprising in a world where so much of our lives are shared publicly, 2014 saw the rise of anonymous social networking — the soaring initial popularity of apps such as Secret, Yik Yak and Whisper suggested that providing anonymity can be a lucrative play.
And yet, while users crave the break of anonymity in a hyper-public digital world, they are also looking for a targeted and personalized experience based on precisely the kind of data they might choose to hide in other contexts. Seventy-four percent of consumers today have less patience for content that isn’t relevant to their interests, and 86 percent of customers say that personalization influences their purchases.
There’s no doubt that data on user identity and preferences is the modern-day gold dust powering the Internet economy, allowing for the kind of targeted advertising and marketing that achieves the best ROI. But if brands and businesses want to succeed in building a strong and viable relationship with their customers, they will have to learn to walk a fine line between privacy and personalization. Below are a few tips on how to make sure you give users the most effective experience while respecting their privacy.
Be Selective: This might sound counterintuitive, but it pays to be selective about what data you choose to collect from users. Pushing a user to sign up or sign in at every opportunity may sound like a good idea — especially considering how powerful a tool email marketing still is — but it can turn off many users. Before you ask them for information, ask yourself whether you really need this information to start providing the kind of personalized experience a user will find valuable.
Just paying attention to a user’s age, gender or past browsing history can tell you enough to ensure that they see more content that is relevant to them the next time they visit your site. By slowly enhancing their experience in these small ways, you will lay the groundwork of a relationship where users feel comfortable and familiar enough with your brand to register with an email address, or other more personal information.
Provide Value: Never lose sight of the fact that data should always be used to improve a user’s experience. The kind of data and end goals you work with will vary depending on your business, but the overall aim should be making a user’s experience feel as personal as possible. If you ask someone to put in their birth date, be prepared to offer them a special deal or targeted content on their birth day. You can even derive insights from more passive interactions.
For example, if you notice that a certain customer shows a high rate of cart abandonment, make sure they can always go back to products they’ve looked at before. The more you can show a clear connection between data they provide and value they receive, the easier it will be to continue building a deeper and more accurate profile of your customers.
Build Trust: Trust is the foundation to any successful relationship, but this is particularly true when it comes to mediating between a user’s privacy and their desire for a targeted experience. Recognize that they might want to opt out of being tracked or personally targeted at some point, and be flexible enough to respect that. While it might lose you a named user in the short term, it will leave them with a positive experience that will win you more customers in the long run.
Similarly, be very wary of potentially lucrative data-sharing partnerships. No matter how transparent you might be with your users, it always feels spammy to receive emails or notifications from companies you have no affiliation with. Don’t be the conduit to that kind of customer experience.