Balancing Personalisation and Privacy in the Digital Age

Despite privacy concerns, customers are showing increased willingness to share their personal information in exchange for personalisation. What are brands doing wrong?

Reading Time: 5 mins 


  • The aim of personalisation is to connect with your customer in a way that helps them resonate with your brand. When a customer receives a personalised email, there are two ways for them to react. One, they think the email was written just for them — the brand has reached out at the right time and with the right offer. Two, they are at the receiving end of a message which cleary shows the use of data they don’t remember sharing explicitly. 

    In the first case, as a brand, you either win a new customer, or witness the beginning of a loyal customer-brand relationship. In the latter, you are permanently stamped in the customer’s brain as a big “NO” for having broken their trust by using their private data without consent. 

    Marketers struggle to find their way out of this mesh. Martechvibe spoke to industry experts in personalisation about the right way to measure a brand’s personalisation efforts and achieveing the balance between a brand’s need to personsalise and the customer’s desire for privacy. 

    Measuring the success of a brand’s personalisation efforts

    Marketers work hard to experiment and enable various personalised marketing campaigns. But to evaluate whether they have worked or not is a toughie.

    Mapping goals with metrics

    Balancing Personalisation and Privacy in the Digital Age Aamir Allibhoy

    Personalisation’s efforts can only be tracked best, if the outcomes are mapped accurately with the set goals. “ROI from personalisation must be tracked on a dashboard with pre and post-personalisation campaign results,” says Aamir Allibhoy, Regional Chief Marketing Officer at Tim Hortons

    He believes that each goal and outcome require a specific metric. For example, evaluating sales requires a different approach and tools than, say, evaluating customer satisfaction. “Always be mindful of what you truly are measuring and why!”

    What are the personalisation metrics?

    Balancing Personalisation and Privacy in the Digital Age Aziz Amine

    The true success of a brand’s personalisation efforts can never be measured without the ‘correct’ metrics, adds Allibhoy. Aziz Amine, Group VP Marketing & Commercial, Country Director at FRiENDi Pay at Beyond ONE, suggests the following:

    • Conversion rates: A high conversion rate indicates the effectiveness of the segmentation activity.
    • Engagement metrics such as CTR, PPC, Impressions, and Reach can indicate if customers are showing high interaction with your personalised content.
    • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) can tell if customers are generating repeated purchases upon exposure to a personalized experience or product.
    • Customer satisfaction surveys can be used to measure your target audience’s satisfaction and overall impact in terms of loyalty and retention.
    • A/B Testing can be used to compare the performance of personalised experiences against non-personalised ones (using control groups).

    Balancing personalisation and privacy

    Customers are willing to share their data for personalised offers but when they see their private information being misused, it breaks their trust and impacts their impression of and loyalty for a brand. 

    Regional compliance

    The place to begin with, says Amine, is with understanding the privacy principles and requirements in the country where you operate, to ensure you are not breaking any rules while using customers’ data for personalisation. “Regularly review and update your privacy policies, terms of service, and data handling practices to ensure compliance with the local legal rules and regulations,” he adds. 

    Respecting customer privacy

    Balancing Personalisation and Privacy in the Digital Age Taha Iqbal

    “There’s a fine line between personalisation and being creepy,” says Taha Iqbal, Group Head Marketing at Almusbah International Trading Company. He says one of the important things to consider is to not do personalisation just for the sake of it, and only because tools are available.

     It is essential to respect customer privacy while creating personalised experiences, as marketing leaders are also custodians of the customer experience for their respective brands, adds Iqbal.

    Allibhoy agrees that marketers must strive to not excessively pursue and secure customer data at every possible touch point. While digitisation has allowed us to engage and connect with customers at more relevant times and places, that does not imply brands should track and trail the very same customers. For example, Allibhoy explains, if GenZ is a core part of a brand’s target audience, it is imperative to understand that they are extremely sensitive to their personal identities and would not respond kindly to the unnecessary collection of their private information. “Don’t pursue or engage in something that would make ‘you’ feel uncomfortable, let alone anyone else,” he adds.

    Amine lists some guidelines to ensure a balance between personalisation and privacy:

    1. Be transparent, clearly communicate with customers about the use of data and explain privacy rights
    2. Obtain explicit consent and collect only relevant data
    3. Implement robust security measures to protect customer data from unauthorized access or data breaches.
    4. Provide control to customers: Give customers control over their data by enabling them to manage or update their information, and easily access and withdraw their consent.
    5. Develop a privacy-first culture across the marketing team

    Ensuring that you only take as much as you need helps build customer trust and a virtuous loop begins, says Iqbal. “Consent, compliance, transparency and security are the factors around which marketing leaders should build their customer privacy philosophy. Once these are in place, personalisation can be woven into the tapestry, and customers also trust and respect such an arrangement,” he concludes. 

    Catch Allibhoy and Amine at Vibe Martech Fest, Saudi Arabia, at Crowne Plaza Riyadh Al Waha, Saudi Arabia, on 8 November 2023. For more information, visit Vibe Martech Fest, Saudi Arabia.


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