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Personalization, Privacy and the Creep Factor

Posted by Julia Walker

Wed, Jul 25, 2018

online shopping

You’ve seen it before: a pair of shoes that follow you all the way from Zappos.com to Facebook, or even creepier, when you have a conversation about Patagonia and suddenly, Instagram serves you an ad for their latest down jacket. Today’s marketers don’t have to guess where to place their ads anymore. Instead, they track online behavior to tailor ads, offers, products, and experiences to the specific consumer.

Leveraging online consumer behavioral data for personalization is now a standard marketing strategy, but what are the implications for brands and consumers?

Personalization drives consumer behavior. In fact, 80% of people are more likely to do business with a company if it offers them a personalized experience. Amazon revolutionized personalization when they rolled out their product recommendation algorithm—a feature some attribute to their huge sales increase (29% in the second fiscal quarter) in 2012. And it’s only advanced since then. With the help of AI and big data, brands can deliver highly custom experiences to consumers. Now, personalization spans devices, following you from your tablet to your desktop, and can recommend your next TV binge or anticipate an unmet need.

Personalization can also inspire loyalty, which means a greater customer lifetime value and possible advocacy. With forty-four percent of consumers saying they will likely make additional purchases after a personalized shopping experience, this is a tremendous opportunity for brands to break through the clutter with tailored messaging and offers.

But is there such thing as too much personalization? As brands continue to collect data to better understand and serve their customers, where does the line between service and invasion of privacy begin to blur? InMoment's 2018 CX Trends Report found that 75% of consumers find most forms of personalization at least somewhat “creepy”. And while half of consumers admitted they’d still shop with the brand after a creepy experience, almost a quarter reported it would drive them to a competitor.

The stakes are high for companies collecting customer data: 70% of consumers would stop doing business with a company that experienced a data breach. And this data is exactly what enables brands to personalize their offerings.

So, we’ll continue to see this tension play out across industries—while consumers continue to expect more personalization, brands must deliver tailored experiences without risking the creep factor.

Julia Walker is a Project Manager at CMB and an avid online shopper whose decisions are often influenced by algorithm recommendations.

Topics: data privacy, ecommerce, Artificial Intelligence, retail research

What Amazon Can Teach Us About Delivering on Customer Loyalty

Posted by Ashley Harrington

Wed, Apr 25, 2018

 

amazon packages (resized)

I live in a historic Boston neighborhood rich in restaurants and charm, but poor in parking. If you have a car, you have two choices: spend a fortune on a dedicated monthly parking spot or drive in circles until you find free street parking.  I don’t like to waste money or time, so I don’t own a car.

I don’t own a car, but I do have two kids. So, I need stuff and I need it all the time. Enter, Amazon.

I use Amazon on all my devices and have multiple apps. I use it for both planned purchases and impulse buys. I Subscribe and Save for everything from baby wipes to granola bars. I order groceries from Amazon Fresh. I try on clothes with Amazon Wardrobe. I buy e-books. I watch movies and TV shows on Prime. I use Now to get emergency toddler bribes delivered in an hour.

On top of all that, I pay Amazon for the privilege of buying things with them with an annual Prime membership. If that’s not the ultimate sign of customer loyalty, I don’t know what is.

If I was responding to an Amazon loyalty study, I would certainly make it into the “Super User” group, checking all the boxes for how we might define loyalty: frequency of purchases, cross shopping, willingness to try new categories, likelihood to recommend, etc. 

My “Super User” status didn’t happen all at once—it was gradual thanks to the “Amazon Effect.” Over time, Amazon plucked one more category of our household expenses from another retailer.

I work with clients every day to help measure, understand, and improve their customer loyalty. While few companies have the infrastructure and the sheer breadth of product and services in such a frictionless way, there are lessons any brand can learn from Amazon’s excellence in curating a faithful customer base.

 Here’s how Amazon keeps me loyal:

  • Anticipates my needs: I wasn’t actively thinking about how great life would be with a paper towel subscription. But, I gave Subscribe and Save a shot and now we never run out and I can't imagine my household without it.
  • Gives me back my time: With Fresh, I can enjoy time with my family instead of spending it in the grocery store (if you enjoy taking your children to the grocery store, I nominate you for a Parent-of-the-Year Award!)
  • Provides me with flawless execution and problem resolution: Amazon’s apps and website are easy, fast, and intuitive. Once I order something, I know exactly when it’ll arrive on my doorstep. If there is an error, Amazon’s customer experience team is polite and fair in resolving an issue.

While I am a loyal customer, there are certain things I don’t buy on Amazon. Some because they aren’t sold (yet) (e.g., wine) and others because I enjoy shopping elsewhere. And there are Amazon services that aren’t for me. For example, I don’t need to tell Alexa to turn on my lights.

 So, even for this Super User, loyalty has its limits.

 Ashley Harrington is a Research Director at CMB who recently starting using “Amazon” as a verb and probably has goldfish crackers in her bag.

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, brand health and positioning, ecommerce, retail