Too Much Personalization Turns Off Consumers, Study Finds

Consumers want their email messages to be personalized -- but they don’t want them to be too personalized. 

The merits of personalization in email marketing are extensive, and studies suggest that more relevant marketing leads to higher conversion rates and sales across B2B and B2C industries. There is a downside to personalization, however, and a recent Adobe report on consumer email use suggests that some subscribers find email personalization creepy. 

Thirteen percent of respondents said too much personalization in email marketing was annoying and creepy, according to a survey of more than 1,000 Americans.

Although this number pales in comparison to the largest nuisance in email marketing -- 50% selected getting emailed too often by a brand -- it exemplifies the need for marketers to be strategic with personalization. Quality is better than quantity, but personalization itself is not an cure-all to poor email marketing programs. 

"There is definitely a 'right' and a 'wrong' way to do personalization," says Jason VandeBoom, CEO of ActiveCampaign. “Yes, personalization can certainly increase the effectiveness of your marketing communications, but companies need to be conscious of privacy. Yes, there's a moral reason to consider privacy, but also consider the fact that 'over-personalized' content may cause some to tune out."

VandeBoom argues that email marketers can ensure that privacy and personalization are in balance.

“If you tailor messages to customers in subtler ways, rather than overtly inserting their personal information into your messaging, you’re more likely to come across as helpful rather than creepy,” he says. “This means using personalization to tell them more about your brand, products and services -- not more about themselves. Relate what you know about the consumer to the brand.”

For example, VandeBoom says a retailer could show customers items they might like based on their past browsing and purchasing behavior without explicitly calling out that they know exactly which shirt the customer was looking at on their website two days ago. 

“It’s all about the optics and the delivery of the content,” says VandeBoom. “Customers know you’re collecting their data, but they don’t always want to see it all laid out plainly before them.” 

Rob Brosnan, vice president of strategy for Movable Ink, says email enjoys a distinct advantage because the brand and consumer have a first-party relationship.

“The line marketers should walk with personalization should be based on being human, helpful, and handy. If you’re doing that, creepiness isn’t much of a factor.”


1 comment about "Too Much Personalization Turns Off Consumers, Study Finds".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, September 27, 2017 at 5:12 a.m.

    * Seen those bizarre adverts personalized with your little town? Amazing how many of your neighbours want to "socialize" or else have discovered a get rich quick scheme that works.  

    * And remember how just email used to say things like, "Dear Peter, here's a unique offer for you and the Austin family in Chilworth"?

    Don't copy them. 2 simple rules - never personalize for its own sake and don't copy spammers.

    What you should do is be helpful and relevant, for example by recommending clothes that match what your shopper was looking at on your website. And especially by sending personalized triggered emails such as cart and browse abandonment and purchase complete.

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