Research Insights Personalization: work of genius or an unwanted affront to personal privacy

Personalization: work of genius or an unwanted affront to personal privacy

September 2019
Phocuswright Research

Personalization: work of genius or an unwanted affront to personal privacy

This article is part of a content series that explores some of the most significant technology-driven issues or developments that will shape travel distribution this year and beyond. For more on these hot topics, check out Travel Innovation and Technology Trends 2019.

For laser-targeted, highly personalized marketing campaigns, a fine line of demarcation exists between being considered a work of genius or an unwanted affront to personal privacy. A recent Phocuswright travel research article, Offer Personalization: What Variables Set the Context, found that that line is independently drawn by each individual, and not controlled by the marketer. Intangible (or extremely difficult to measure) factors such as brand perceptions come into play. For the same hypothetical personalization-related transgression, a given consumer that scored two brands similarly from a Net Promoter Score perspective could just as easily turn into a staunch brand defender for the first brand, while advocating for boycotts of the second, based on that individual's perceived relationship with the respective brand at any given instant. Context is everything when it comes to personalization. However, without quality data, reliable system integration and relevant, creative messaging, the prospect of understanding and effectively communicating within a contextual construct is considerably more challenging.

The big question is, for a particular brand/specific individual pairing, what makes an interaction or offer too personal? 35% to 41% of consumers are creeped-out by common marketing tactics ranging from retargeting ads on social sites to proximity-based text message/app notifications.*

Brands will soon face the strategic choice of:

  1. Avoiding any form of potential controversy (at the risk of being considered impersonal or boring).
  2. Performing research and tests to calculate an acceptable level of risk in causing a projected share of customers some degree of discomfort (without eliminating the non-zero potential for unintended consequences).
  3. Taking a shot, hoping that it will be easier to beg forgiveness.

The deciding factor may ultimately depend on the "offended" consumer's willingness to forgive - a factor based solely on unique personal context. Assume that downside risk-based calculations will become more systematized and important as tracking, targeting and machine-learning technologies advance.

* "Pulse Check 2018 - Moving from Communication to Conversation," Accenture January 2018