The Role Of Personalization Essay Example



Companies advertising their products on the internet desire information and data regarding who they want their ads to be advertised to. User demographics and online interests are collected and processed to generate ads that will captivate the user’s attention. As technology allows companies to directly address online users which increases company profit, the methods being used may infringe on users’ privacy. Especially since many users are unaware that their privacy is being breached, the question of safety and security arises from those who are aware. Technology is growing though, and as technology grows, so do its number of users and their knowledge of it. This is quite the dilemma: companies want to advertise their content effectively, yet user privacy is being compromised. To combat this issue, finding the right balance of personalization without breaching consumer privacy would provide comfort consumers and allow companies to continue to profit.

There are many different types of personalization. Primary types of this include explicit and implicit. Explicit personalization is user-provided information such as personal information, contact information, and methods of preferred communication. Typically, explicit personalization is collected from sites that have account registration or an account of some sort with their site. On the other hand, implicit personalization is gathered and inferred data. This type of personalization may include geolocation information, detected use of technology, browsing data, and social media information. Some sites ask their users to accept terms and conditions or accept their cookies beforehand, which may seem like an explicit personalization but actually is not. This is where it becomes dangerous since people may not understand or know why so much of their data is being collected although they have technically given companies permission to use their implicit data. There was a survey done by Gartner that states, “In a survey of more than 2,500 customers, more than half report they will unsubscribe from a company’s communications and 38 percent will stop doing business with a company if they find personalization efforts to be ‘creepy’” (Gartner 2019). This makes finding the balance of personalization and privacy crucial because overpersonalization is proven to deter users away from the company’s product or service. 

A study done by Jelle Scholten from University of Twente found that data used for ads may sometimes be collected from private messaging platforms, such as Facebook’s “Messenger” application (Scholten 2019). Maintaining a good relationship between customer and company is key to increasing company profits, since no individual would support a company with a negative image. Especially when consumers are seeing ads based on private conversations on an application. It proves that the “creepiness” is unethical and should not be used. As a matter of fact, it is a violation of privacy as it is an invasion of personal space (Moore, Moore, Shanahan, Horky, & Mack, 2015). With how many people in today’s society use online methods to communicate, it would negatively impact any social platform. The balance of personalization and privacy cannot be seen at hand, making it even more critical to create safety and security around online consumers. 

But how does one resolve this dilemma? Companies need to be strategic and purposeful with the data they are collecting. Not only should online consumers know what data the companies are collecting, but they need to know the intended use of that data. It is under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) stating that it is a requirement for companies to disclose to their customers about the data that the company has and how they are using it. Adapting and following this regulation by companies worldwide would ensure the trust that online consumers need with a company. Also, knowing that there is a legal requirement that companies follow to be transparent with their consumers will bring feelings of safety and security to them. 

Another key requirement to balancing personalization is the usage of Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The idea is that the amount of data being collected is useful and ready to be used; the data should be just enough to make an impact. An example of malpractice of this would be a makeover app in Meitu. NeoRhino has written an article detailing the amount of permissions required to use this app. From downloading the app, it prompts its users to accept permissions of using body sensors, calendar, camera, contacts, location, microphone, phone, SMS, and storage. It is an absurd amount of permissions for merely a photo makeover app. Companies need to be agile with their customer data, and the more they collect, it may be seen as malicious and intrusive. 

Collecting just enough data necessary would solidify the company in the trustworthy zone. An excellent example of this practice is a similar app called FaceApp. This app uses AI technology to alter the detected faces in a picture. In this app, it requests permissions for internet, network state, camera, and storage. A study was also done to analyze the app’s code, proving that these were the only permissions being used (Neyaz, Kumar, Krishnan, Placker, Liu, 2020). As a photo editing app, this would make more sense than Meitu’s permission. The minimal usage follows the guidelines for a MVP, so it would provide its users with a sense of safety that there aren’t any undesired data being accessed by this app. When an app does require more data for future development, it is better practice to update their permissions as they go rather than collecting it all at once. 

Aside from demonstrating effective data collection strategies to create balance, companies should also communicate with their consumers by checking-in on them. Methods such as push notifications, email notices, or direct messaging can be used to make the consumer feel valued. This could also be a great method for companies to receive feedback. Although the idea may be helpful, it is also counterintuitive for the company to encourage less communication, a study done by Gartner details that “if consumers find emails irrelevant or annoying, 48% will unsubscribe, and 12% say they will stop doing business with that company” (Gartner 2018). This brings the idea of choice for the consumer, which gives control. The check-in method should give the ability of choosing whether or not they want to receive check-in messages from the company. Giving them communication control would prevent situations described by Gartner as well as letting the consumer know that the company respects their time and attention. 

When personalizing communication, it is also important to consider inclusivity. This issue stems from internal biases which can affect the assumptions being made in a communication method between consumer and company. In order to overcome these biases, companies need to accept that they have biases. Next, companies need to recognize biases if they occur and ask themselves how or why they would think a certain way on a particular demographic. Making fewer assumptions of the consumer and asking more questions would increase the respect that a consumer may feel. In turn, this will give the company a better idea on how to personalize communication with their consumers. On the other hand, it can be “creepy” when a company  overpersonalizes in this way. An article written by Kate Anderson explains it well, stating “think before you personalise, use the data you hold but interpret it well, make sure you really understand your customers vs assume you know them from a few demographics, avoid prejudging and patronising them. Add value by being more relevant – try not to creep them out.  If you can’t achieve that, don’t go there” (Anderson 2017). The goal of personalized communication is to increase user input and reduce assumptions, so when overpersonalization occurs, it distances the consumer from the company. Moreover, companies could also run the risk of not showing the consumer things that they may be interested in. Balancing general marketing and communications would provide consumers with feeling safe and increase business with the company.

Balancing personalization and privacy is a necessary action when gaining the trust of online consumers whilst maximizing a company’s profits. When the consumer notices that their content is being overpersonalized, there is a chance of them avoiding that company. Data that companies collect must be used strategically in order to maintain the company image as well the trust of its consumers. Efforts of being inclusive, having effective communication, being transparent with the consumer and avoiding collecting too much at once are all crucial steps that companies need to follow. The internet should be a safe place, and its consumers should feel safe and secure while accessing it.