Ask your average consumer three simple questions:

1. Do you dislike spam? Typical answer: “Yes, of course.”

2. Do you like personalized consumer experiences? Typical answer: “Yes, of course.”

3. Are you willing to give up a certain amount of personal information so vendors can personalize engagements with you? Typical answer: “Errrrrmmmmm... ”

And there’s the rub. You can’t have it all. 

Gone are the days when sending a generic message would garner a strong response. Now, messaging inundates individuals across multiple channels. It’s not only a challenge to get noticed — you’re lucky if you make it into (and stay in) the inbox.

Find the Sweet Spot Between Personal and Invasive

Spam is a throwback to an era before data-driven marketing, when marketers played the law of large numbers and probabilities. With a plethora of data on consumers and prospects now available combined with big data’s analytical ability to derive new data out of it all, marketers can now segment and personalize in a way previously unheard of. And consumers want it. Seventy-three percent of US consumers prefer to buy from brands that use their information to deliver more relevant shopping experiences. 

But concerns still remain. According to a TRUSTe consumer survey, data privacy concern is at an all-time high, with 92 percent of US Internet users worrying about their online privacy. The success of data-driven marketing hinges on how marketers deal with this imbalance. Today, marketers are walking a tightrope with data privacy issues and more importantly, avoiding the creep factor. Personalization can go too far if not managed correctly.

The solution lies in marketers’ ability to act responsibly and maintain transparency. If marketers have an open dialogue about the source of data and how it is being used, consumers will welcome personalized messaging and customized offers.

Using big data comes with big responsibilities. As my mum always said, “be honest, authentic, treat others as you would want to be treated yourself and people will like you.”

Learning Opportunities

The same goes for marketers living in the era of big data.

All marketers should adopt three critical best practices to ensure the long-term success of their data-driven marketing initiatives — be transparent about what data you are using, demonstrate you’re playing by the rules, and be clear about the value this brings to your customers.


A customer’s digital footprint has grown exponentially over the last decade. It’s not only shopping and purchase data. It could be banking, travel arrangements, social media, real estate ownership, bridal registries or school admissions. Whether first party or third party data, the way a marketer can capture customer data is almost limitless. The key to managing and using data is to be transparent about how you’ve obtained it, why you are using it and how the customer can control the use of data through ability to opt-in or opt-out.


The big data compliance stakes are high for industries such as finance and health care, but they’re growing in importance for mainstream markets as well. For larger enterprises, it’s not about sheer volume, but its complexity and lack of consistent structure. For smaller companies, the focus is on keeping business practices reasonable and appropriate. But certain industry standards that ensure data’s confidentiality, integrity and availability should be consistent to all companies. All data should be protected from unauthorized access and disclosure.


Successful companies recognize that data is a strategic tool. It can help them gain advantage in the marketplace and transform the way they interact with customers. However, it’s all about the tradeoff — the “give to get” factor. Customers are willing to give information if they get something in return. This could be a targeted product, customized service or perhaps a loyalty program. At the end of the day, you can relieve many of your customers' data sharing concerns if the benefit is evident.

Managing big data is challenging but necessary. While managing this amount of data will probably only become more arduous before it gets easier, there are benefits. A highly personalized approach not only empowers the consumer, but can convert a buyer into a loyal, repeat customer and brand ambassador. The time to get personal is right now. If you stay true to yourself, customer acquisition, retention and brand loyalty will be the drivers to your company’s success.

So be transparent, compliant and show your value. And remember, your mum is always right.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Kris Krug 

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