When it comes to personalized marketing, there’s a fine line between what’s useful and what crosses into invasive territory. While users are increasingly attached to and dependent upon today’s technologies, there are still segments that are fearful of artificial intelligence.
This boundary is particularly prevalent in the mobile industry, where some consumers find highly personalized mobile marketing efforts too intrusive. For example, today brands can analyze users’ locations or purchasing histories to send them highly relevant content and discounts. If this data is leveraged intelligently, it opens up new possibilities to provide more helpful and enhanced service.
However, overeager marketers unfortunately misuse the data, causing many consumers to feel their privacy is being violated. If your cable provider knows what you watched last weekend and recommends a new film while you’re sitting in your living room, is that creepy or a convenient new value?
It’s a tough question to answer because mobile users themselves are sending a mixed message. A majority of U.S. smartphone owners check their devices hourly and, according to a 2015 Deloitte study, more than 80 percent of consumers use their mobile devices while engaging in everyday activities like shopping, talking to friends and family, enjoying leisure time, dining out, or watching TV. It’s clear that mobile is an integrated part of users’ lives. However, consumers do not universally welcome the idea of brands capitalizing on this trend.
Digitally minded shoppers understand that the strategy makes their lives easier and they enjoy the unique content and offers sent to them. For users less inclined, all’s not lost. With a few changes to mobile strategy, brands can generate valuable personalization that meets each user’s comfort level.
1. Gauge Permission Upfront
While explicit consent is difficult to earn, retailers can use mobile behavior as a relatively accurate barometer of permission for personalized marketing. For instance, if a user has never clicked through a personalized advertisement or engaged with individualized content in the past, it’s likely that she wants to stop receiving this kind of messaging on her phone.
However, if call to action (CTO) response rates are high, a brand can more confidently deploy personalized notifications in the future. It’s key to begin monitoring engagement during the early stages of every consumer relationship, and then to continue to do so, making adjustments to the frequency of communication over time. User preferences may change, and brands need to be respectful of that.
2. Take it Slow
Users’ relationships with mobile marketing, like most relationships, take time to build. Mobile users are not going to automatically desire high volumes of personalized content, just as new acquaintances are not expected to know everything about each other, or to share everything about themselves. Too much too fast can be a huge mistake for brands.
When interacting with new customers, it’s best to begin with generic content and then progressively personalize mobile outreach over time. This strategy will help companies avoid the grey area of invasiveness. For instance, marketers should start by communicating via more neutral topics like holidays or seasonal offers. Then, as shoppers develop a purchase history and relationship with a brand, outreach can scale toward personalized recommendations and language. If engagement rates fall as personalization increases, this is a good sign that efforts should slow down.
3. Notify, Not Annoy
From apps to texts to email, notifications are a daily-and often hourly–part of the mobile experience. However, brands have to be careful about not stepping on users’ toes with too many alerts. In fact, it’s proven that mobile users will disengage when brands do. Fifty-two percent of consumers feel that push notifications are an annoying distraction, and 46 percent of people will opt out of push notifications if businesses send two to five in one week. Open rates for push notifications actually decrease as brands send more of them in a week.
In order to please users and keep them engaged, brands have to craft notifications with relevant content and added value. For example, if consumers receive daily alerts about the same sales opportunity, they may disengage due to redundancy. However, if a brand deploys one or two notifications reminding users that a seasonal sale is coming to an end, users will be more likely feel a sense of urgency to act.
Personalization is not only about personalized content, but also personalized frequency, engagement, and delivery. Although consumers align based on demographic data and purchase history, each expects a unique mobile experience. Smartphones are such an intimate technology that users demand a one-to-one connection on their devices. Today’s apps must also be sophisticated enough and offer additional value, otherwise customers will never use them.
Personalization is a great avenue to provide new value, but marketers should err on the side of caution at first. As relationships with consumers grow, brands can fine-tune the level of personalization and frequency of interaction that shoppers prefer.