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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Are You Creeping Out Your Customers? Here's How to Stop

Are You Creeping Out Your Customers? Here's How to Stop
Credit: RawPixel/Shutterstock

With technology advancing marketing strategies today, brands have access to much more personal information than they did years ago.

But this is both a blessing and a curse. According to CX intelligence provider InMoment's 2018 CX Trends Report, 75 percent of consumers find most forms of personalization creepy, and 22 percent would take their business elsewhere.

"While there's no doubt that targeted adverts are a huge help for businesses and clients alike, sometimes they can be too efficient," said Nate Masterson, marketing manager for Maple Holistics. "For instance, if someone is talking about a product or service to a friend over the phone and the next day they see an advert directly linked to the product or service they were talking about, they may feel as though their privacy has been invaded."

Despite the good intentions, 40 percent of brands still admit to being creepy – a disconnect that could ruin their relationship with consumers. If you want to find success in marketing, you need to approach your audience in a less invasive manner. Here are four tips on attracting customers rather than scaring them away.

While you might think that you should be investing most of your time in your audience, that will often make you seem pushy and aggressive.

"The most irritating thing about targeted ads is the feeling of being pursued by advertising," said Pieter Verstuyf, head of paid media at Expert Market. "You can move across sites and see the same company following you around and that feels intrusive, especially if the product relates to something personal.

Instead, you want your customers to feel invited and curious to try your products by focusing more of your attention on your brand.

"Rather than focusing on the individual and their personal details, focus on the product or service you are providing and its benefits, or the feelings it might generate," said Verstuyf. "Use customer data to split your audience into cohorts, and then highlight the relevant benefits to that group through your content marketing."

If the same ad follows a customer from site to site, they'll notice – and they might be anything but tempted to make a purchase. According to Verstuyf, "sometimes the best way to get noticed is to be the least aggressive and intrusive."

"You can avoid creeping customers out with proper segmentation, setting proper ad impression limits and with the use of strategic ad scheduling," added Stewart Small, digital media director at Kttp Inc. "This will help feed a more realistic distribution of ads to your potential and existing customers."

Small noted that you can set strategic scheduling to delay the exposure of a highly targeted ad.

"This will help lessen the 'creep effect' customers often feel – as if someone is watching over their shoulder," he said.

When your dry shampoo ad suddenly appears to a customer who was just discussing hair products with a friend, you're likely to be labeled as disturbing and creepy. Masterson advised toning down targeted ads and aiming for customers who are actively searching for related products. That way, it will feel more natural.

"People … are more familiar with this form of targeted advertising and are more likely to feel comfortable with an advert that they can tell is based on their search history – rather than their phone calls or previous destination," he said. "They're more likely to see the advert as a helpful guide and less of an infringement on their personal privacy."

According to KJ Dearie, product specialist at Termly.io, "the biggest tool that companies have at their disposal right now is transparency." It's not the fact that companies are accessing customers' information – it's the fact that they don't know what exact information they are collecting.

"Businesses can quell a great deal of uneasiness if they're simply up front with their consumers about what information they collect and why," Dearie said. "The first step in adopting a system of transparency is to craft a privacy policy and accompanying website notifications and comprehensively outlines what data is collected and for what purpose it is being used. Advertise this effort on your website for both your own legal protection, and for your customers' peace of mind."

To be upfront with your customers, you can send a mass email that lets them know you're refining and enhancing their experience with targeted marketing efforts, Dearie added. This is a courtesy that will make consumers feel more comfortable and trusting.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a Purch B2B staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. The only time Sammi doesn't play it safe is when she's writing. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.

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