In the world of targeted marketing, we often tread the line between being personalised and being personal. On the one hand, using a consumer’s data can lead to marketing that is tailored to the individual, helping them to cut through the noise and get to the products or offers relevant to them. However, if that often private and sensitive data is used in an overly personal and intrusive way, it can leave consumers feeling uncomfortable about the way a business is using their personal data to target them. When done right, I believe that consumers genuinely enjoy the benefits targeted marketing brings. To confirm these suspicions, we asked consumers what they really thought – and found that two in five (39%) like targeted marketing. So, while there are still concerns around privacy and using data to target consumers, there is definitely an appetite for it.

So, What Did The Research Find?

Not surprisingly, the research revealed that younger generations are overwhelmingly positive towards targeted marketing. Over a quarter (27%) of those under 35 expressed a strong preference to targeted marketing, rising to 32% if there is the opportunity to see other products and services. However, what was surprising is that the positive attitude to targeted marketing wasn’t just limited to those under the age of 35. One in 10 respondents aged over 65 reported liking targeted marketing and a further 12% didn’t have any preference.

That said, it is important to recognise that 42% of over 65s felt that targeted marketing was invasive and a further 32% felt manipulated by it. So, while these figures were much lower than anticipated, it clearly shows that as an industry, marketing still has a lot to do to reassure the public, and this particular age group, that targeted marketing is not an evil or manipulative practice and that it can actually be extremely useful.

So, what are all these benefits? For consumers, it is a much more personal approach, the digital equivalent of a shop assistant that recognises a returning customer and suggests items they may like. Consumers can benefit from sale items and receive suggestions for things they might have otherwise missed.

For brands, their message becomes more direct. Rather than use a scattergun approach, companies can define audiences with greater accuracy, meaning they are only sending out their message to those who care. This not only increases the engagement consumers have with the brand but increases the chances of a sale being made.

Our Old Friend GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is something that as an industry we have all been aware of for some time now, and are all hopefully very much on top of. And let’s be honest, while some might see these changes as a headache, addressing data and privacy issues was inevitable. As business leaders and marketers, we have a responsibility to make sure we are using data in a sensitive and appropriate way. Those who see data as something to be used for the sole purpose of turning a profit regardless of the consumer, risk ruining it for everyone. When GDPR comes into full effect in May 2018, consumers will have much greater power over their data – and rightly so! ma

Of course, with these new regulations, there is a risk that consumers will all rush to remove their data as a result of their ‘right to be forgotten.’ What the research highlights is that consumers like targeted marketing but without data, this won’t be possible.

So here lies the challenge. How do businesses stop customers opting to remove some or all data? Education and reassurance.

Education And Trust

GDPR strives for data transparency, and that is something businesses need to do with their customers. Reassuring consumers that their data will be protected, used only for their benefit, needs to happen; otherwise, people will panic and request their information to be removed. Think about explaining to customers how their data is used, reassuring them that their private information is secure.

We can’t simply assume that consumers understand how data is collected and used. As our data has shown, a significant portion of respondents still do not trust targeted marketing. Brands need to encourage trust with their customers by educating them on how their data is used to benefit them.

Part of this education process is as simple as actually delivering a great targeted marketing campaign. When done well, companies can surprise and delight their customers, helping them to see the real benefits of a personalised approach. If poorly handled, the business runs the risk of breaking that trust. So there is a fine line between providing personalised offering and intruding a customer’s privacy. Finding that balance is key to keeping consumers in a positive mindset towards targeted marketing and using their data.

GDPR is an opportunity for us to educate the consumer on how their data is used. Reassuring customers that their data is protected is an important part of that process. It’s easy to worry when private data is in the hands of a company, but building that trust with customers is something everyone has to do to keep targeted marketing in the good books.