Survey: Customers Love Real Personalization, But Just A Name Won't Do It

Apparel shoppers are feeling overwhelmed by a tidal wave of targeted digital marketing messages, but that doesn't mean genuinely personalized messages won't work, according to a new study by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The group surveyed 409 U.S. and U.K. consumers and found that 71 percent said they receive so many targeted apparel messages that just using their name to personalize a message no longer makes a difference. In addition, 66 percent said superficial attempts at personalization were actually annoying—exactly the opposite reaction that a retailer wants.

But when a targeted message includes details of previous transactions or other personal details, 25 percent said they take it more seriously.

And there, in a nutshell, is every retailer's personalization—and privacy—problem. The more the retailer knows about the customer, down to the details of what she bought and when, the more attention the customer pays to the sales pitch. Keeping that detailed CRM data under wraps can actually annoy shoppers, driving them away.

At the same time, shoppers are increasingly told they should be worried about data gathering and they shouldn't allow retailers anything but the bare minimum of information required to do transactions. Privacy is good, and by definition personalization is a problem.

To be fair, privacy clearly is good for customers, especially in the face of scammers, cyberthieves and simple busybodies. But customers just as clearly are willing to share information with merchants they trust, and they don't have a problem with those merchants reminding them that they have that information. In fact, they prefer it—at least as long as the merchant doesn't breach that trust.

That suggests many retailers have been straining mightily to find ways of soft-selling or even obfuscating the fact that they're collecting information when they should be making much clearer statements—in a convincing way, of course.

Customers don't mind joining loyalty programs that track what they buy. They have no problem installing apps that literally track where they go and notify them when a store is nearby. They actually prefer when retailers show their preferences and thus don't waste their time. Doing a convoluted dance around that is probably a waste of time. Instead, it may be time for retailers to trust most customers to trust them when they say they're collecting data. As long as that trust is unbreached, it's not a problem—to customers, it's an advantage.

For more:

- See this Chain Store Age story
- See this news release

Related stories:

Survey Finds The Creepiest Loyalty Program Behavior
FTC To Retailers: If You're Collecting Customer Info, Say So Clearly
Think Customers Trust You? Survey Says: Think Again