10/24/2020

How Digital Personalization Builds Trust and Loyalty

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Article at a Glance:

  • It is essential for companies to develop websites that aren’t just easy to navigate, but are also designed with each unique user in mind.
  • When companies demonstrate that their customers are valued as individuals instead of generic consumers, they will build trust and loyalty over the long run.
  • According to Epsilon, 80 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to do business with a brand if it offers personalized experiences and 90 percent say they find personalization appealing.
  • Consumers are willing to share data as long as it results in improved products and experiences, but companies have to be transparent about how those data are collected and used.
  • Recognize the difference between being helpful and invasive.

There are several reasons why personalization has become one of the most important concepts in the ever-shifting world of consumer engagement, from the emergence of data collection and analysis technology that allows companies to acquire in-depth knowledge about consumers’ preferences and concerns to the explosion of social media. But all of these changes can be summarized in a single sentiment: Nobody wants to feel like a number.

Brands and marketers have long understood that we live in a digital-first world. Companies that don’t have a robust online presence are putting themselves at a severe disadvantage because they’ve drastically limited the number of touchpoints they have with their customers. However, the nature of digital interaction is always evolving – mere accessibility is no longer enough for consumers who are increasingly demanding products, services, and experiences that are tailored to their specific needs. 

Nowhere is this change more evident than in consumer expectations around a company’s website, which is often the anchor of its overall digital presence. This is why it’s essential for companies to develop websites that aren’t just easy to navigate, but are also designed with each unique user in mind. When companies demonstrate that their customers are valued as individuals instead of generic consumers, they will build trust and loyalty over the long run.

The personalization revolution

According to Epsilon, 80 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to do business with a brand if it offers personalized experiences and 90 percent say they find personalization appealing. This is a trend that won’t be leveling off anytime soon – beyond the fact that companies are capable of tracking consumer sentiment in much greater depth, shifting norms around media engagement have led to a permanent change in attitudes. 

Consumers are able to curate so much through social media leading to an expectation that their information will be respected by brands.

For example, a recent Edelman survey found that 63 percent of consumers say they trust what influencers say about brands more than traditional advertisements. With social media, consumers are able to curate their own information streams in ways they never could before, which has led to an expectation that their own priorities and interests will be understood by the brands they do business with. This doesn’t just mean brands should have a strong social media presence – it means they should provide personalized experiences across all their communication channels, including their websites. 

This can be done in many ways, from the deployment of AI-powered chatbots that can address each customer’s specific concerns immediately to lists of recommendations that vary from person to person. No matter what technology or strategies they use, it’s vital for brands to design, update, and maintain their websites to keep pace with the trend toward personalization. 

How digital personalization should and shouldn’t work

How many times have you ordered a pair of shoes online and found yourself being relentlessly pursued by shoe ads for the next several weeks? This is a prime example of how digital personalization shouldn’t work. If brands want to understand which types of personalization are most effective, it’s important for them to know what to avoid. Bad personalization is often worse than no personalization at all. 

A recent survey by Gartner found that 38 percent of consumers will “stop doing business with a company if they find personalization efforts to be ‘creepy’” (for example, ads that chase you around the Internet for weeks on end). This concern about “creepiness” is instructive for brands trying to determine how to personalize their websites. 

Beyond the rejection of ad algorithms that bombard users with suggestions for products they’ve already purchased, brands need to be extremely careful with how they use consumer data. Consumers are willing to share data as long as it results in improved products and experiences, but companies have to be transparent about how those data are collected and used. They should also allow consumers to opt out of data collection if they don’t feel comfortable with it, and this option should be clearly visible on their websites. 

Digital personalization is among the most powerful tools brands have for consumer engagement, and they should ensure they’re using it as responsibly as possible to avoid turning an advantage into a serious liability. 

Best practices for website personalization

Almost one-third of consumers say they purchase products online weekly or more often. This is one of many indicators that digital experiences are becoming more and more important, and considering the fact that almost a third of consumers report that they’ll stop doing business with a brand after a single bad experience, it’s a reminder that a brand’s website is one of its most indispensable resources. 

There are many mechanisms for tracking consumer sentiment and improving experiences, such as Voice of the Customer platforms that collect data on net promoter scores and other engagement metrics across channels. Brands can also deploy dynamic text and images which are customized for each individual user with platforms such as Mutiny. The digital tools a brand decides to use depend on its individual circumstances, which is why brands should focus on a few broad principles when managing their websites. 

First, recognize the difference between being helpful and invasive. While many consumers welcome personalized product recommendations, assistance from a chatbot, and other types of engagement that address their individual needs, they don’t want to be bombarded with prompts and flashing ads that make their user experience clunky and annoying. Second, be completely transparent about your data collection and use practices, make it easy for customers to opt out, and allow them to customize their data settings as much as possible. Third, prioritize customer feedback and explain how it will be used to improve products, services, and experiences. 

We have witnessed a fundamental change in the way consumers interact with brands – they no longer want transactional relationships that make them feel interchangeable with everyone else. They want to be treated like unique human beings with their own interests and concerns, which gives brands an opportunity to forge more meaningful relationships with them than ever before.

About the author

Tom brings a wealth of experience to our organization from his time working with brands such as Apple, Starbucks, and Expedia at agencies including BBDO, Campbell Ewald, and M&C Saatchi.