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How brands can provide personalised user experience without violating their privacy
How marketers tread the line between hyper-personalization and snoopingPixabay
Striking the balance between offering personalised user experience and respecting their privacy

How brands can provide personalised user experience without violating their privacy

Striking the balance between offering personalised user experience and respecting their privacy
  • In the last decade, marketers have started focusing a lot on personalization and using advanced targeting technologies to woo their consumers.
  • However, there is an increasing awareness around data privacy. In a panel discussion organised by Mobile Marketing Association APAC, experts discussed how marketers can offer personalised user experience in the age of data privacy.
Imagine your local retail store owner knocks on your door late in the evening to ask if you need dry snacks for your party you never invited him for and have never shared personal details of your life with him. That would be immensely creepy, right? But if he made a note of every purchase you make to offer a better, new product that is available in the market when you visit, that would make you feel special, like the seller cares enough to notice and improve your buying experience.

Mondelez India’s latest personalised Diwali ad was one of the most appreciated ads in the ecosystem that set a benchmark in our industry. It was the first hyper-personalised ad tailored according to different pin codes in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Indore, Ahmedabad and Lucknow and targeted different sets of consumers sitting there.

So, treading this thin line between hyper-personalization and snooping can be difficult. In an era where consumers want to be seen and spoken to personally within a short amount of time and at the right time, it is highly challenging for marketers to understand how to use data available to create the right media plan. It doesn’t take a lot for a new-age brand to turn from cool to creepy.

Offering an exceptional customer experience (CX) has become an important differentiator for a brand’s success. As data has become the new oil, consumers now exist in the form of cookies, email addresses, date of birth, mobile numbers, social addresses, etc. in a marketer’s database.

So, how does a marketer strike the right balance? A panel organised by MMA with Jahid Ahmed, Head - Digital & Content Marketing HDFC Bank, Rakesh Jaitly, Senior Sales Director - Oracle Applications, Gaurav Kaushik, Global Vice President-Ad Platform, JioSaavn, Umesh Krishna K - Marketing and Head of Media, Swiggy and Raman Kalra - Partner, PwC India explored this question.

COVID’s impact on consumer targeting and data processing

With COVID, many marketers shifted a larger chunk of their monnies on digital marketing and started exploring new ways of reaching out to consumers.

Kaushik noticed a key difference in consumers. A lot of them shifted from cities to their hometowns. He said, “One major shift that we noticed was the definition of WFH and of people from Tier I to Tier II. To their hometown and work from there as they just need the internet. With this, brands who would target people in Tier I and II, have shifted their focus to the whole of India. People would listen to music when they commuted. Now, our media mix has changed because they are using multiple devices like speaker, smart TVs for the same task because you have those devices available.”

So, as a marketer, Kaushik suggested that one should reach out to the same consumer via different devices and moments in life. It is the same user but how and where they consume the content should be taken into consideration, which is a different mix now.

“We have over 5,000 branches but our website is the biggest branch now after COVID. The kind of business we have seen is phenomenal. With this, the expectation from digital marketing has changed. Consumer end-to-end journey have become more developed. Digital is now an end-to-end conversion source for you,” said Ahmed.

Consumers’ expectations have also increased. They expect marketers to take notice and speak to them personally, which is why marketers need more data to personalize their campaigns.

“After the pandemic, there are three words used very often: digital engagement and contactless, which has given different meaning to lots of business models. Marketers nowadays emphasize on these three points with the changing time: Connected data, connected intelligence and connected experience. It is not just about name, email address or mobile number but both implicit and explicit data. For us, it is important to recognise key differences between individual consumers, even outside the digital ecosystem -- are they frequent travellers, are they going to buy a car, this is what we track. We can bring commonalities from data that lead to personalization,” said Jaitly.

Striking balance between privacy and customization

Kaushik highlighted that consumers often pretend to be someone they are not in real life to assimilate themselves in a social group. However, data never lies.

Speaking on how JioSaavn uses data to trace consumer journey, Kaushik said, “It is one thing to listen to music and another thing to look at the data and it tells you a different story altogether. For example Baby Doll was one of the biggest hits when it launched. So, music is personal and a companion and medium, these together become a really powerful tool to customize the journey for the user. Music creates a true profile for you and that helps to understand the user better. All we do at JioSaavn is to understand how people consume music and focus on that part because that is the only type of content that has a repeat button to it! And because it is on repeat, it starts creating patterns. There was a user who listened to ‘I wanna break free’ 64 times in a day and you can imagine what their state of mind is. Music goes hand-in-hand with your mood. With age, the romantic genre goes down and religious genre goes up. Nobody likes to accept that but that’s the reality. So music becomes a powerful tool to understand the user, which helps us understand the consumer journey at a customised level.”

In a diverse country like India, for a brand like Swiggy it is difficult to find the right mood and understand their consumers' taste buds based on their behaviour. So how does it divide them into different cohorts and target them?

Krishna K said, “For meaningful segmentation, you need to have a finite set of segments in the range of 3 to 7, not 20 to 30. But within those segments, we personalise our communication in terms of what imagery should go through which would fit a certain consumer of one profile. For this, a lot of third-party data helps us in re-targeting and branding.”

Speaking on how personalisation helped push digitalisation and shape consumer behaviour, Ahmed said, “One of the parts of personalization is the product. From the 30 million base that we have, we are ensuring that we are serving our customers in the best way possible. Hence, I have to personalise the product for one person, what is that they would be interested in -- that is the first level of personalisation. Second is intent -- I have made this product, but the consumer intends to buy something else, how do I understand that? Then serving a campaign according to their intent. For example, if I know a consumer who doesn’t have a credit card, I would offer reward points to lure them. So, we subtly nudge them. We need to nudge the consumers at the right time and right set of creatives. Data also has to be married properly with storytelling.”

He further highlighted how every website has added a notification informing consumers about data tracking and seeking their consent. He said that people don’t have a problem if they consent to it and they see concrete results in exchange for data.

Jaitly told us the question every consumer asks before they consent to sharing data. He said, “Do you treat me and understand me better if I share my data? Organisations need to prove how they are balancing it. Building trust is important.”


Experts suggested gaining consumer confidence about how the information was gathered, giving them control of their personal data, and offering fair value in return. Lastly, they said that brands should use first-party data to analyse user behaviour and while using third-party data, they try and segment their requirements into different cohorts like time of the day, genre and location. Communication, therefore, should not be at a user level, but should resonate with the consumer at a larger group level so that it doesn’t cross a line.