Rockwell was right: somebody’s watching (and we’re mostly ok with it)

Most consumers have become inured to highly personalized retail marketing. But many are getting creeped out.

Is it personalization…or stalketing? As digital advertising platforms weigh the impacts of Apple’s new IDFA changes, ecommerce marketers are asking themselves, “how targeted is too targeted?” 

At a BOXpoll session at the recent Etail Virtual Summit, we asked retail attendees to tell us the questions they’d like to include in an upcoming survey. In addition to inspiring our latest coverage on sustainability, retailers most wanted to know how consumers felt about personalization, including such questions as:

  • Do consumers like an email to be personalized with their name, or do they find it creepy?
  • Does it feel invasive when you see items suggested for you based on your "shopping habits"?

Happy to oblige, Etail attendees (and keep the questions coming)! So, we recently asked consumers about their thoughts on personalization online and in email.

Is it personalization... or stalketing?
  • 1 out of 3 US consumers on average feels uncomfortable with instances personalization of one kind or another.
    • 46% either feel neutral about or don’t notice personalization.
    • And 21% appreciate and enjoy personalization.
  • The feature that consumers said made them most uncomfortable was websites that display your name (without you explicitly logging on, 45%).
  • 1 in 4 (25%) took objection to promo emails that mention products recently left in their online shopping carts.
  • The most creeped-out demographic groups include:
    • Women (37%, vs 29% men)
    • Baby Boomers (42%) and Gen X (38% vs 24% others)
    • Mid to high income earners ($50K+, 36% vs >$50K, 30%) 
    • Those without kids (36% vs 25% parents)
    • Suburban and rural residents (36% each) compared to urbanites (25%)
  • The good news for marketers: 46% of consumers on average either don’t notice or don’t have a strong opinion about personalization.
    • The most innocuous—meaning they go unnoticed or don’t evoke a strong reaction—are retargeting ads (i.e., ads from websites you’ve recently visited, 51%).
    • Abandoned cart emails are the most “popular” form of personalization, appreciated by an eye-watering 1 in 4 (that’s sarcasm, folks) and unnoticed/uncontroversial among half of all consumers.

Clash of the advertising (and regulatory) titans

While Apple—and now, ostensibly, and paradoxically, Google—introduce friction for targeted advertising, lawmakers, and interest groups in both the US and Europe are also challenging the privacy practices of online advertising behemoths such as Facebook…and Google. This led us to ask whether all the privacy (and somewhat relatedly, antitrust) discourse is influencing consumers’ attitudes towards the largest digital ad platforms.

Turns out, consumers are thinking along similar lines in every country we surveyed. 

  • Across all Western countries and Australia, almost half of consumers (41%-47%) report that they continue to use Facebook regardless of if they have privacy concerns or not. 
    • For Google, this number jumps up to three-quarters of consumers (74-79%).
  • About one-third (28%-37%) are limiting use or have stopped using Facebook because of privacy concerns. 
    • For 15-20% of consumers, the same holds true for Google.

Use our platform-specific interactive tool to find out which segments in which countries are more sensitive to data privacy than others.

BOXpoll™ by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture, and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult //2094 US consumers surveyed March 2021.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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