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GUEST COMMENT How can brands eliminate the ‘creepy factor’ in personalisation?

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Brands have long been following consumers around the internet with retargeting ads for products they already have. This so-called ‘personalisation’ has been driven by marketers tracking consumer behaviour using browser cookies and mobile IDs, and while most people like having their individual interests catered to, it can often feel a bit stalky, which can turn them away from a brand. A recent Gigya survey found that 44% of UK consumers ignore all future communications from brands that do not target them correctly.

The consumer acceptance of third party browser cookies is at an all-time low. Trustworthy brands have turned to registration, the act of volunteering personal data, along with our permission to use it, to reset their relationships with consumers. Seth Godin first published Permission Marketing nearly a decade ago, and with the European Union’s new General Data Protection (GDPR) just around the corner, this is the year when it will finally serve as the basis for consumer relationships with brands.

Historically, in order to obtain consumer data, brands have turned to data brokers, purchasing information without explicit permission from online users. But, with the GDPR due to take full effect in May 2018, this approach is strictly verboten.

There are extensive new rights for consumers regarding data protection and their rights to control how their personal data is used. Companies ignoring this regulation will face fines as high as €20 million, or 4% of global revenues, whichever is higher. Marketing needs to clean up its act. It can’t abuse our data privacy in the next decade in the same way it did over the last two.

To manage data effectively and gain customer loyalty, marketers must move beyond anonymous user data to create known, unified profiles which power one-to-one customer relationships. The answer is seeing people not just as numbers, but as individuals with their own digital identity. By persuading visitors to identify themselves at the point of site entry via registration, marketers can tie demographic, interest and behavioural data to these individual identities. However the big pay-off is in being able to continually ask contextual questions which enhance the user journey, an approach called progressive identity. provides a devastatingly simple example of this, with shoppers gradually building a profile based on dress size, favourite designers and colours, giving consumers the power to share only the data points that they believe will provide them with the best value exchange, and making sure they know exactly where to go to update or edit these permissions, ensuring personalisation never comes as a surprise.

Many brands cross the line into creepy when it comes to establishing customer relationships, by asking for too much information without any exchange of value. Data privacy and brand transparency proves to be top of mind for consumers, with more than two-thirds of both US and UK consumers admitting to being concerned about data privacy and how companies are using customer data.

Brands will no longer be able to target and connect with consumers online in today’s carefree manner when GDPR comes into force. Like any earthquake, there will be collateral damage. On the one side are brands who still believe that ‘know your customer’ means looking over their shoulder, and on the other are brands who have come to understand that the future of marketing is in allowing customers to make themselves known.

Richard Lack is managing director EMEA at Gigya

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