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Webinar Recap: Balancing Privacy and Personalization in Your Emails

When it comes to email marketing, consumer expectations have never been higher for personalization, or for data privacy. If you think this seems like a paradox, you may be right. The very customer data that enables you to send the types of highly tailored content your customers crave can also make your brand seem creepy if you cross the line for any individual on your list. It can seem like a losing battle, though, for some, to the point that some brands almost give up entirely, sending bulk mailings that don’t stand out in today’s crowded inbox. So what’s the solution?

In our recent webinar, email industry veteran Angela Vega (Senior Marketing Manager, Vrbo) revealed five key guidelines that can help you deliver content your customers will love (and that will lead them to buy) while respecting the security of their data at the same time. Here’s a look at those guidelines and how each can contribute to managing the tricky personalization vs. privacy balance.

Create Relevancy with Generalizations

Not having quality data to personalize with doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines while your competitors deliver relevant content to the inbox. Generalizations can create relevance and a connection with your audience while also posing no risk of privacy concerns.

We’ve all seen lots of examples of those recently, as our inboxes filled up with coronavirus-related emails. Some of the better ones acknowledge the way our lives have changed in similar ways, offering clothing or other consumer products more suitable to working (or maybe working out) from home rather than going out.

Holidays and regional events can be other opportunities to create relevance through generalization rather than deep data dives. For the marketer with difficulties accessing data or PII concerns, this can be a great way to still tailor messages to your audience.

Transparency Adds Clarity

When you do utilize data to personalize a message, being transparent and up front about what you’re using and why is a great way to build trust with your audience. An example Angela used was an email from Uber Eats that stated “Thanks for tipping” at the top, then told a short story about how far the tips go in helping their drivers pay rent and feed their families.

That can create a positive experience for the customer, letting them feel good about helping someone, and encouraging them to continue to do that in the future. And having those sorts of transparent, positive interactions can create more loyal customers, and easy wins for your brand.

Relevant Actions, Not Data Showboating

You’ve probably gotten an email from a brand where you’re a member of their loyalty program, and all it does is detail how many points you have, how many it’ll take to get you to the next level, maybe how long you’ve been a member, but there are no relevant actions they’re driving you toward. No context to tell you what you can do with the points you’re accumulating.

Don’t just show off how much you know about the customer. Think about how you can actually help the customer. Maybe suggest some great ways they can spend those points or offer them a free gift for being a loyal member. But definitely give them some sort of action to take that will be relevant to them. They don’t care how much you know about them; they care what you can do for them.

First-Party Data

This is always a big issue, and often seems to come up with banks and other sorts of lenders when you show interest in a mortgage or a car loan or something else in the financial realm. Suddenly, you’re receiving emails from brands you’ve never heard of, trying to sell you all sorts of complementary products and services you never knowingly opted into hearing about.

While many brands may have some fine print in their email subscription agreements that allow them to sell customer lists to third parties, you should ask yourself if that money is worth the loss of trust from the customer who didn’t expect to be bombarded with all these third-party promotions. Those messages may be technically relevant, but they may not be welcome.

Personalization is Problem solving

On the other hand, banks can also be part of the solution. The example Angela used here was when Capitol One sent her an email that provided her with a list of all the recurring monthly charges she had on her account. It’s easy to sign up for recurring charges, and sometimes you might even forget to cancel some you’re not using much now.

This message was a great prompt for her to review those charges and decide if she still wanted to continue paying for them all. Even if the customer doesn’t make any immediate changes based upon an email like this, it’s a great way to use data to deliver something truly useful. Think about what information you have that could be organized meaningfully in a way that helps solve a problem for your customers.

There was lots more that Angela talked about from there, including rating emails from several prominent brands and answering viewer questions. Watch the whole webinar now.

Jeff Haws

As MessageGears' Senior Marketing Manager, Jeff is focused on ensuring the execution of the Marketing team's vision, with customer messaging and communication at the forefront. He's passionate about understanding the way data impacts messaging, and creating content that helps marketers do their jobs better.

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