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The balance between personalisation and privacy

28th Sep 2020
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There’s no doubt that smart speakers are now becoming an integral part of our daily lives. According to Strategy Analytics, over one in five UK households owned a smart speaker as of the end of June last year — translating into 5.8 million households and a reach of over 10 million users. This figure is projected to increase to over 50% by 2022.

But despite the rise in smart speaker usage, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the risks these devices pose to their privacy. This isn’t surprising, especially when you consider how many data leaks have occurred over the last year from leading voice assistants like Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant.

Although these smart home giants are recognising the need to protect the privacy of users and have introduced new measures, some vulnerabilities still remain. Take Amazon’s voice assistant platform, for example. In August this year, researchers identified a huge gap in Alexa that could potentially leak a large variety of personal data.

As privacy concerns remain prevalent, consumers are now moving away from voice-enabled devices for shopping purposes — something that was highlighted in our recent report looking at consumer shopping habits.

This clear shift in voice-enabled online behaviour indicates that privacy is now becoming a higher priority for consumers and concerns over newer technologies like voice-enabled services are losing their appeal as a result. Yet at the same time, consumer expectations for highly relevant and personalised online shopping experiences remains high.

Brands and retailers are now under an increasing amount of pressure to strike a delicate balance between offering personalised content, while respecting customers’ online privacy.

The decline in voice commerce

Just as the rise of smartphones drove the m-commerce market, voice commerce was set to thrive as a result of rising smart speaker sales — but we’ve seen this decline year over year.

Our recent survey found that just 7% of respondents used voice-assisted devices to complete a purchase multiple times a month, versus 17% the previous year.

It also highlighted that security concerns is one of the primary reasons consumers are less willing to use voice-enabled assistants to make purchases. In fact, one third stated that a lack of security features will stop them from making more purchases through speakers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

Security concerns are not just limited to voice-enabled search either, with one in four consumers believing that brands and retailers should make respecting their online anonymity a higher priority in general.

Personalisation is key

While it may seem that consumers are conflicted in their desire for both personalised experiences and privacy, they are willing to share their data with brands and retailers if they receive something of value in return.

Their main concern is over companies misusing their data or the possibility of personal information being leaked — but they also want to see content that’s relevant to their needs and preferences.

Our research discovered that nine out of 10 consumers are comfortable with sharing personal data with brands if it means they’ll receive a more rewarding and satisfying shopping experience.

But how can brands address the increasingly high consumer expectations and provide better experiences? 

Location, location, location

Brands and retailers need to consider their existing and potential customers within the wider content of their site visit. For example, having an understanding of micro factors — such as the time of day, where a customer is along the buyer journey, and the channel or device they are using — can help retailers to deliver personalised recommendations to the right people at the right time.

When it comes to location, 80% of shoppers say they’re most likely to purchase goods while sat on the couch, so brands have an opportunity here to turn these ‘couch surfers’ into dedicated buyers. Product suggestions, personalised offers and timely recommendations that pique a consumer’s interest and are specifically tailored to their purchasing context can work really effectively.

Alongside location, products are also key. Some SKUs might be in short supply or others not available at all, so only display the most relevant products that are in-stock at that time to avoid unhappy customers. There’s a great opportunity to engage visitors by highlighting the products they’ll find highly appealing, knowing they can make the journey through to checkout with no hitches.

Personalisation and management of content inventory is increasingly driven by artificial intelligence (AI) solutions and these can be used to gain a better understanding of how customers are responding to personalised content in real time. When an AI-powered personalisation tool serves content to visitors at the individual level, content recirculation and average interactions per visitor are shown to increase. 

In addition, machine learning personalisation dashboards provide powerful insights into customers’ interests, behaviours and content preferences, and help brands identify who has the highest propensity to buy and when.   

Trust and transparency

To strike the right balance between privacy and personalisation, brands first need to establish true transparency over why and how they will be using consumer data, and consumers also need confidence that they have control over how and where their data is used.

This digital experience paradox can ultimately be overcome by establishing what customers are looking for and directing them to the most relevant content that best suits their needs.

Most importantly, make the personalisation and privacy balancing act an ongoing priority, rather than a tick-box exercise.



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