The Future Of Personalization: What Is The Fine Line Between Better Experience And Intrusion?
A few days ago I had quite an awakening experience.
I was chatting on the phone with a friend about her last family trip. They went to Reykjavik, to see the Northern Lights, and the trip was mind-blowing. She promised to send me pictures, and we ended the conversation.
But a weird phenomenon started to happen. My Facebook and Instagram feed was now peppered with ads for trips to Iceland. Not to mention that Google was joining in, pushing all sorts of trips to the Northern hemisphere!
So how did this happen? I didn’t do any research on this topic in the last months nor did I use a messenger app to talk about it. Yet, the minions that deliver personalized ads were up to speed.
Since I work in digital marketing, I know about marketing personalization using AI-powered tools. I also know about intelligent chatbots used by businesses to increase sales and deliver improved customer experience. They are not magic nor are they spying on us, but the technology can be scary if there is a lack of transparency.
I strongly believe AI put the digital marketing industry on a new and improved path where both businesses and customers can win. However, as a customer myself, I often wonder about that line in the sand – where does personalization stop and where does intrusion begin?
To Deliver Good Results, AI Needs Smart Data
A 2017 PwC Digital Services group study shows that 94% of executives consider personalization in marketing to be critical for their businesses’ success. This is mirrored in the market, where about two-thirds of consumers say they like buying from brands that deliver relevant ads and personalized shopping experiences.
However, there is also a growing concern regarding data privacy and where the personalization trend could lead if left unchecked. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, six-in-ten Americans believe they can’t go through a day in their life without being tracked by various online or offline services.
And it’s all done in the name of personalization.
How do marketers collect data?
While this may seem scary, it’s important to understand why this tracking happens and how the data is collected.
Each online tool you use (social media, sites, blogs, forums, location check-ins, and so on) has various tracking systems in place. Their purpose is to learn from your behavior online and understand your preferences in order to deliver the best possible experience.
Now, it’s important to highlight the fact that everything is tracked based on the accounts you create on each channel in association with your IP address. So, when a marketer looks at the data, they don’t see personal information. Everything is represented using numbers.
Even more, all the information is stored in huge databases (aka Big Data) that receive a continuous flux of data at any given time of the day. Since we, as humans, can’t process all this information in real-time, we use AI-based tools to process and analyze the data and tell us the results.
But there is a dependency connection between the data and the results provided by AI algorithms. AI works best when it’s fed huge amounts of data that are well-organized and sorted in high-quality databases. For this, specialists use various technologies (like SQL servers and SQL Server monitoring tools) to keep the process efficient and protect the data against breaches.
Otherwise, if there is a problem with the data or the database, the results can’t be trusted and may not be applicable in real-life.
Why do users see a specific ad?
So, no, marketers don’t spy on their customers and don’t listen in to their conversations. AI does. In addition, to protect users’ privacy the data is stored with a certain degree of anonymity.
But how do online platforms know which ads to show and to who?
The algorithms behind our favorite platforms are hard at work looking to understand each person’s behavior online. As such, if you go on Netflix and you search for SciFi movies, the minion behind the platform will start recommending other movies, shows, and videos in the same niche.
Of course, the algorithm behind is extremely complex, but what you need to know is that it changes with every interaction you have with the platform.
The same happens with the type of ads we see on Facebook and Instagram.
The Do’s and Dont’s of Personalization
Personalization works because it brings more money to producers and retailers, but it’s also a win for the customers. The user experience is increasingly improved due to this technique, and most shoppers enjoy it.
Have you ever wondered how mind-numbingly boring it would be to browse through the entire movie collection of Netflix? Or worse, to have to browse through the millions of Amazon products when you don’t know exactly what you want?
Personalization is a fantastic way to provide users with options they may appreciate. In fact, many users are happy to receive recommendations and 85% of impulse buyers were happy with their purchase.
But there is a dark side to personalization.
First, many users feel watched and don’t trust their online data are being handled correctly. And, if we consider recent data breaches, it’s easy to see why.
Second, the lack of transparency from giant tech companies like Google and Facebook when it comes to what data is being collected and why it doesn’t help.
Lastly, many marketers got sloppy with the way they use AI and became quite intrusive. For instance, the story I mentioned at the beginning of the article. This was the result of several tools collaborating for the same goal (voice recognition, intelligent virtual assistants, and more) – delivering personalized ads. Still, it was creepy.
It’s also risky for marketers. Let’s say you chat about how much you dislike a product. Based on my experience with my friend, you should start seeing ads for that product. This will increase your dislike but it will also deepen your distrust in tracking technologies.
Things got so far out of hand that #creepymarketing became a popular hashtag on Twitter!
The conclusion is that we don’t really know where personalization ends and where intrusion begins. In a world that’s as dynamic as ours, we need personalization. At the same time, we should be aiming at building trust and engaging customers – and this is what we do at Jumper.ai. Learn more about conversational commerce solution if you want to give your customers a personalized (and not intrusive) experience.