49% of Consumers Sign-Up for Personalisation but it can get creepy

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According to the latest survey from Periscope® By McKinsey, consumers both value and respond to personalisation — when it’s done right. But they won’t tolerate being bombarded with poorly timed, intrusive or irrelevant messages. The research, entitled “The Art of Personalization— Keeping it Relevant, Timely and Contextual” was conducted across 2,590 consumers in France, Germany, UK and the US and sought to understand how consumers respond to the personalised messages they encounter.

The findings of the research highlight how many of today’s consumers are more than willing to opt-in to receive personalised communications via SMS, email or social media from the brands and retailers that they know. Indeed, an impressive number of shoppers in the US (55%), UK (52%), Germany (46%) and France (44%) say they often or sometimes sign-up to personalisation.

However, results also indicate that shoppers in all countries said that most messages they receive still feel like mass marketing that weren’t created with them in mind (France 47%; UK 42%; Germany 40%; US 36%). Clearly, with consumers ready and willing to engage, the rewards will significantly increase for those brands who adopt a more sophisticated and strategic approach which delivers offers and tailored suggestions based on their shoppers’ unique wants and needs.

Personalisation Triggers an Impressive Response – 31% of Consumers are Prompted to Act

Despite this current personalisation shortfall, however, around one-third of messages received by US (37%) and French (32%) consumers, and around one-quarter of messages received by German (27%) and UK (26%) consumers had stimulated them to act.

Evaluating which personalised content held the greatest appeal for them, consumers in all countries said they most wanted to receive messages about products relating to their interests. Recommendations related to a previous search also ranked in the top three for shoppers in the US (43%) and UK (39%), while retargeting the exact product for which they’d previously searched resonated with consumers in France (44%) and Germany (40%). However, it was updates relating to product availability and/or price that proved particularly popular in all four markets, taking the #2 spot with 42% of shoppers in Germany and the UK, and was identified as the third most relevant message type by 44% of consumers in France and 42% in the US.

Deals Represent a Top Motivating Factor for Consumers

Asked what motivates them most to act on a personalised communication, taking advantage of an offer that saves them money topped the list for consumers in the US (61%), the UK (59%), France (54%) and Germany (49%). Messages about products they wanted to buy proved the next motivating factor for consumers in the US (47%) and UK (45%), followed by communications about products in their price range (41% US and UK).

The number two motivating factor for consumers in Germany (48%) and France (47%) proved to be messages about products that match their personal tastes. Taking #3 spot for 45% of consumers in Germany were communications on products they wanted to buy, while 42% of shoppers in France were motivated by notifications about products within their budget range.

Which Channels Get Consumer Attention?

Asked what percentage of messages they had actually opened and read, SMS/text messages stimulated high engagement levels with shoppers everywhere. In the US, it was the channel most likely to elicit an ‘open and read’ action, with 42% of all messages received being opened and scanned. It was a similar story for consumers in France, who confirm they’d reviewed 45% of received SMS messages.

While SMS stimulated high open rates with consumers in Germany (57%) and the UK (40%), it was communications sent via messaging apps like WhatsApp that got the most attention in those markets. German shoppers read 67% of the instant messages they’d received, while UK shoppers reviewed 41% of communications sent to them in this channel.

When consumers were given the option to select their top three preferred channels for receiving personalised messages, while email predominated in all countries surveyed, shoppers in the UK, US and Germany identified coupons linked to their loyalty cards as their second choice, followed by either WhatsApp (US and Germany) or adverts on Instagram (UK). Consumers in France, however, selected the option of receiving adverts through their Instagram account as their second choice just ahead of coupons.

When Personalisation Gets Creepy

While shoppers recognize that brands and retailers are using their data to target and personalise messages, they’re definitely unsettled when they feel their digital or personal privacy is being invaded. Unsolicited communications from companies they don’t know was a top issue for US consumers (41%), and the second biggest cause for concern for German shoppers (39%). However, it was the unsettling eeriness of location tracking messages that caused the most anxiety for German (40%) and UK (40%) shoppers and was listed as the second greatest cause for apprehension among French (41%) and US (40%) consumers.

Getting a message within seconds of undertaking a purchase or having conducted an online search also made shoppers uncomfortable; it was identified as the second most likely cause for concern by consumers in the UK (38%), and #3 in the list of creepy personalisation attributes identified by French (37%) and US (38%) shoppers. The cross-sharing of their browsing history also proved a top issue for 42% of French consumers, while the cross-sharing of profile information was the third most likely thing to disturb 37% of German shoppers.

Taking a look at whether certain types of personalisation were more likely to spook men versus women, perhaps unsurprisingly, women were noticeably more likely than men to find receiving location-based messages more intrusive and unsettling.

“This year’s findings represent a very clear learning point for retailers and brands – taking personalization efforts to the next level represents a significant opportunity to drive up consumer engagement. To be successful with their personalization efforts and reap the rewards, businesses should employ advanced analytics and scalable and sustainable solutions to better understand their consumers and create the right mix of content, channel and timing to drive a change in behaviour of an individual customer.”
– Lars Fiedler, Partner and Senior Solution Leader Marketing Solutions, Periscope By McKinsey


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