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Permission-based marketing will eliminate the “creepy factor” in personalisation

For the last 20 years, brands have followed consumers around the internet, surfacing spammy retargeting ads for products they already have. This kind of "personalisation" has been driven by a use of browser cookies and mobile IDs – and needs to end. Instead, all hail permission-based marketing.
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While most people like having their individual interests catered to, it can often feel a bit stalky. Our research highlights 44 per cent of UK consumers will ignore all future communications from brands that do not target them correctly, so it’s time companies start thinking of permission-based marketing.

Consumers acceptance of third party browser cookies is at an all-time low, and so trustworthy brands have chosen to reset relationships based on registration; the act of volunteering personal data, along with permission to use it. It’s now nearly ten years since Seth Godin first published his book – and blog– on permission-based marketing, and with the introduction of GDPR, 2017 is the year when it will finally serve as the basis for consumer relationships with brands.

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Historically, in order to obtain consumer data, brands have turned to data brokers, purchasing information without explicit permission from online users. But with the GDPR due to take full effect in May 2018, this approach is strictly verboten.

There are extensive new rights for consumers regarding data protection and their rights to control how their personal data is used. Companies ignoring this regulation will face fines as high as €20m, or four per cent of global revenues, whichever is higher. Marketing needs to clean up its act. It can’t abuse data privacy in the next decade in the same way it did over the last two, which is why permission-based marketing will soon become key.

To manage data effectively and gain customer loyalty, marketers must move beyond anonymous user data to create known, unified profiles which power one-to-one customer relationships. The answer is seeing people not just as numbers, but as individuals with a digital identity. By persuading visitors to identify themselves at the point of site entry via registration, marketers can tie demographic, interest and behavioural data to these individual identities.

However the big pay-off is in being able to continually ask contextual questions which enhance the user journey, an approach called progressive identity. ASOS.com provides a simple example of this, with shoppers gradually building a profile based on dress size, favourite designers and colours, giving consumers the power to share only the data points they believe will provide them with the best value exchange. They thus know exactly where to go to update or edit these permissions, ensuring personalisation never comes as a surprise.

When it comes to establishing customer relationships, many brands cross the line into creepy by asking for too much information without any exchange of value. Data privacy and brand transparency proves to be top of mind for consumers, with more than two-thirds of both US and UK consumers admitting concern about data privacy and how companies are using customer data. So brands need to take care not just to let users know what data points they would like to collect, but how this data is being used.

GDPR signals a seismic shift in the way marketers are allowed to operate. Like any earthquake, there will be collateral damage. On the one side are brands who still believe that “know your customer” means looking over their shoulder, and on the other are brands who have come to understand that future of marketing is in allowing customers to make themselves known.

Richard Lack is managing director EMEA at Gigya

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