{# Cookie Consent Banner #}
Register Now
Request Demo
    Hero Shape

    Ecommerce Best Practices: The Fine Line Between Considerate and Creepy Personalization

    9 minute read
    Ecommerce Best Practices: The Fine Line Between Considerate and Creepy Personalization

    When it comes to ecommerce success, a recent Forbes piece puts it simply: Personalize or perish. Professional services company Accenture backs up this declaration, reporting that 83% of global consumers are willing to share their data to get personalized experiences.

    But there's also a critical challenge brands must consider: There's a fine line between considerate and creepy personalization — between just detailed enough and so specific it's scary.

    Get it right, and consumers are more likely to consider purchasing from your brand, make repeat purchases, and refer your brand to friends and family, according to McKinsey & Company. Get it wrong, and they'll leave your brand behind — but not before telling everyone in their social circle that your company overstepped and made them feel uncomfortable.

    Brands must navigate this personalized priority landscape without crossing the line. Learn more about the evolving impact of personalized experiences and walk through four ecommerce best practices to keep your customers close — without creeping them out.

    The Evolving Impact of Personalized Experiences

    Ecommerce personalization has now become essential. As a result, simply personalizing content and offers isn't enough. Brands must make sure they offer the depth and degree of personalization that customers want.

    Accenture reports that 91% of consumers in North America and Europe are more likely to purchase from brands that remember who they are and what they've bought — and provide relevant, targeted ads.

    What Leads to 'Too Personal or Invasive' Personalization Experiences?

    In some cases, poor experiences are tied to lacking personalization, such as the absence of targeted offers or the use of generic email campaigns.

    In others, it stems from a sense of being spied on by companies. Accenture notes that 27% of global consumers say they have experienced personalization that was "too personal or invasive," with 64% of this same group indicating that it was because the personalization leveraged information the consumer didn't knowingly or directly share.

    For instance, if a customer starts to see recommended items on your website based on a purchase they made at another brand or retailer, they may view this as an overstep of personal and business boundaries. This recommendation would then have the opposite effect intended — pushing them away rather than driving them to purchase.

    Getting Personalization Right

    What does good personalization look like? Consider industry giant The Coca-Cola Company. One recent ad campaign saw the brand labeling soda bottles with customers’ names. Consumers could either head to their local store and search for a bottle with their name or order a customized set of bottles from the company directly.

    The concept was a success, driving a 6% sales increase for the brand when it debuted in 2014, according to Canadian Grocer. What did Coke get right? It’s simple: Control. In the Coca-Cola example, customers have control of the experience. They can seek out bottles with their names or order their own.

    Personalization Varies Around the World

    It's also worth noting that personalization efforts vary by geographic location. For example, customer data platform Segment reports that while 54% of U.S. shoppers say they consistently encounter personalized experiences, 64% of buyers in the U.K. say the same.

    There's also distinct variation in what consumers view as acceptable personalization. Research published in Nature Portfolio shows that while 65% of U.S. and 54% of British shoppers said it was acceptable for companies to use likes and shares on social media to personalize experiences, just 43% of German shoppers agreed.

    4 Ecommerce Best Practices for Personalization

    These four ecommerce best practices can help your brand stay considerate and avoid creepy ecommerce personalization.

    1. Only Collect Necessary Data

    While more data provides a more detailed picture of shopper behavior, it also opens the door to overly personal ads and campaigns. Instead of capturing every piece of data possible, pick and choose what you need to achieve desired results.

    Ecommerce personalization data could include:

    • Demographic information;
    • Descriptive information; or
    • Brand engagement insights.

    2. Avoid Offer and Ad Spamming

    Have a great ad or offer that aligns with what shoppers want? Great! Send it along. But if it doesn’t prompt action, resist the urge to keep trying. Wait a week, send it again, and then follow up with one more attempt if there’s still no reply.

    After that, consider it a lost cause.

    The quickest way to get cut off from access to users’ personal data is spamming them with ads. If your campaign isn’t working, the problem is with your approach — not with your audience.

    3. Be Tactful When It Comes To Targeting

    Depending on where your brand operates, there may be restrictions around the type and amount of data you can collect.

    Consider the European Union (EU). The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) doesn't consider pre-checked boxes or other "no action" items on websites or in emails consent for data collection and ad personalization.

    Brands must clearly indicate what they're collecting, identify why they're collecting it, and provide users with the direct opportunity to approve or deny requests.

    4. Regularly Assess Your Content

    Shoppers change, and so do their preferences. As a result, it’s worth regularly assessing your content to ensure it’s still relevant and driving return on investment (ROI). If ads and offers aren’t performing as intended, it’s time to reevaluate consumer preferences and redesign campaigns.

    Put Shoppers in the Driver's Seat

    Personalization is now a priority for shoppers. Make sure your ecommerce brand is considerate, not creepy, by following these four ecommerce best practices and keeping control where it belongs: With the shopper.

    Ready to get your brand to the top of search results and start building a robust personalization database? Start with Salsify’s step-by-step ecommerce search engine optimization (SEO) guide.


    Written by: Doug Bonderud

    Doug Bonderud (he/him) is an award-winning writer with expertise in ecommerce, customer experience, and the human condition. His ability to create readable, relatable articles is second to none.

    Recent Posts

    Subscribe to the Below the Fold Newsletter

    Standing out on the digital shelf starts with access to the latest industry content. Subscribe to Below the Fold, our monthly content newsletter, and join other commerce leaders.