Customer Experience Trends: Is Your Personalization too Personal?

In my last post, I discussed findings from InMoment’s 2018 CX Trends Report. In this annual study, we explore brand/consumer perspectives on various areas of the customer experience, which allows us to identify where there is alignment as well as disconnects in perception and expectations.

One area where we saw a significant disconnect was around personalization efforts and the requisite need brands have to mine and hoard their customers’ personal details and preferences. While brands brazenly claim they’re asking for these private bits “in an effort to improve the customer experience,” consumers aren’t so sure they’re benefiting from the exchange. In this year’s study we asked consumers and brands to tell us whether these efforts made them feel “cared for” as brands claim, or whether the result instead makes them feel “creepy.”  We put a slight twist on the questions to brands, asking on which end of the spectrum they feel their own actions lie, and the answers were fascinating.

A whopping 75% of consumers find most forms of personalization to be at least somewhat creepy, and 25% found these efforts to be very creepy. Surprisingly, 40% of brands admitted that some of their efforts were creepy, with 10% admitting they are very creepy. Kind of scary.

So what are some examples of “creepy” personalization efforts? Well, you don’t need to rely on second-hand interpretations because true to InMoment’s passion for providing forums where customers can have real conversations about their experiences, we asked several open-ended questions to understand what creepy sounds like in their words:    

  • “[The experience] was intrusive and too personal, and also presumptive about me and my wants and likes.
  • “I didn’t like being emailed about a product I had left in a cart on a website, or emailed about products I have recently searched. Also, I do not like targeted ads on websites. It feels like I’m being stalked.”
  • “[The brand] wanted me to enable/install the app to get a great in-store experience, but of course it ALSO asked for permissions to [access] my contacts, location, emails, etc. NO WAY.”
  • “I had an ex-boyfriend that lived beside a restaurant. I would sometimes take pictures of his cat. Google would immediately suggest that I upload those pictures to Google and review my experience at that restaurant.”

These comments helped us understand two things. First, consumers are keen to the exchange inequity. And second, the biggest violation occurs when there’s a crossover between the physical and digital worlds, like when they think Facebook or Instagram are listening to and then benefiting (a la targeted marketing) to their conversations.

Customers are creeped out and brands know they’re being creepy. So what? As luck would have it, our study went one step further and asked consumers not just how they felt about personalization attempts, but also what action they took when they veer into creepy. The results: 20% will leave, 22% will begin looking for another brand to serve their needs, and 31% of consumers will trash talk a brand after a creepy experience. So while the initial sting of the loss of business may not feel too painful, the compounding damage to a brand’s reputation may result in a compounding effect — kind of like throwing a stone into a pond. The damage continues to echo.    

At the end of the day, you want to build a relationship with your customers, not creep them out. The balance is tricky, but understanding what your customers truly value — what elements transform a creepy experience into one of real value — is worth the effort.  

To learn more, download the full 2018 CX Trends Report!

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