What Does Personalization Mean to Consumers?

January 17, 2018

There’s been a fair amount of debate about the degree to which consumers welcome personalization – or at the least find it appealing once informed about the data sharing necessary to enable it. So it’s instructive to see how consumers interpret personalization, courtesy of a new study from Epsilon.

The study is based on a survey of 1,000 adults ages 18-64 who are not employed in marketing, advertising, public relations or market research industries. It found that respondents were equally as likely to view personalization in terms of customization (32%) as of service (32%).

An example of customization given is “something suited to me exactly so that I’m more likely to be interested in what they’re selling.” An example of personalized service, meanwhile, is “that the company will know what you want, your likes and dislikes, and make sure you have what you want.”

Fewer people interpreted personalization in terms of discounts/offers (16%), specific products/services (8%) and convenience (7%). In this case, an example of convenience in the report is “noticing how I shop/surf the internet and customizing advertising and shopping options to my preferences.”

The results are quite interesting in light of separate retail research released late last year. In that study, consumers largely preferred personalization of support over tailored ads.

In tandem, these results indicate that consumers view personalization more in terms of support and service than along the lines of tailored advertising, and prefer their personalization in the context of support, too.

This may offer marketers an area in which to improve their efforts, as respondents to the Epsilon survey believe that companies are doing better at personalization of discounts and offers than at personalized service. That’s the case for companies’ digital (websites/mobile apps) presences and physical locations.

Overall, three-quarters of respondents agree that it’s cool rather than creepy when they get personalized offers (although some in-store personalization tactics are widely considered creepy).

Fully two-thirds also agreed that it’s worth giving their personal information to a company in exchange for offers, product recommendations, and discounts that are personalized, with just one-third believing that it’s not worth giving up their info.

There’s less confidence in the privacy of that data, though. Only 57% are confident that the companies they give their personal information to will use it in the most secure way possible, with 43% instead not trusting companies to use it in the most secure fashion.

Other research has similarly found that 6 in 10 consumers in the US are concerned with the amount of personal data that companies have on them.

It will be interesting to see how the upcoming European GDPR regulations affect consumers’ attitudes to data sharing. Recent surveys indicate that many consumers in Europe would take advantage of the privacy options afforded them, driven by a large degree of mistrust about the way in which their personal data is currently handled.

Given that data quality is the biggest challenge for marketers in personalization, they will be hoping that consumers in the EU aren’t leveraging their privacy options.

Separately, Epsilon’s research suggests that consumers’ attitudes towards personalized experiences do not impact the number of purchases that they make, but that those who favor personalization do shop more frequently. The report also indicates that “super” consumers expect personalized experiences.

Those personalized experiences may not always be available, though. In other newly-released research related to personalization, a Yes Lifecycle Marketing survey of marketers online and during the Shop.org conference of 2017 found that 9 in 10 aren’t yet able to personalize marketing content in real time.

The full Epsilon study can be accessed here, and the Yes Lifecycle Marketing study can be downloaded here.


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