No Email? No Problem

How changing attitudes around consumer privacy can build better understanding of and loyalty from customers.

A new customer lands on your site and starts jumping from product to product, image to image, video to video. But when it comes time for this seemingly engaged customer to share their email and keep the journey going, they say, “No.” Based on their initial actions on your site you already have the foundation of a rock-solid — and highly personalized — relationship. The only problem is you have no idea who this person is or how to keep engaging them.

Customers want the experience. Two out of five people go so far as to say non- personalized content is “annoying,” while two in three say content that automatically adjusts to immediate context is important. But while people want relevance, they aren’t always willing to share their data so you can deliver.

“When you’re working with customers, they want you to know them, but they don’t want you to know them that well,” says Ronell Hugh, head of product marketing for Adobe Experience Platform. “They want you to know they’re interested in your product, and they want you to communicate to them, but they don’t want you to know them in a way that’s very intimate.”

“The consumer comes first,” says Rakhi Patel, senior product marketing manager for Adobe’s digital management platform. “And at times they may not want to provide you with their email address, for example.”

Creating personalized experience without the personal information

When the customer doesn’t give you that email, they still want and expect personalized experiences. When this happens, brands need to push forward, working with the data they have to deliver trust-building experiences. Not only will this drive greater engagement and purchasing, but, ultimately, it often drives even privacy-focused customers to share more with your brand.

To get started — without the email — Rakhi suggests looking at information you have and can use. “If the customer consents to a company leveraging cookie information, then the company has a solid jumping-off point to provide personalized experiences,” she says. “You can start understanding how customers are behaving on your website, where they’re browsing, and what they’re clicking on. When customers go off of your site, you can still see what ads they’re clicking on and what creative or offers are resonating with them.”

Using Adobe Experience Platform and, with it, Audience Manager for data management, data can be tied together to get a well-defined picture of a customer segment — without ever collecting an email address, Ronell says.

“You can bring in data from all different sources,” he explains. “If you acquire a new customer, you can build a profile of that customer if they give you the option to leverage the social media data that you have, or if you have some data from other touchpoints that might be relevant.”

Acting on your new-found customer view

From there, Rakhi says, you’ll start to see a more clear-cut — and actionable — customer view taking shape.

“Within the DMP you can create segments or audiences that represent different attributes or traits you’re trying to collect,” she says. “You can take certain criteria of how they visit your website to decide if you want to target that person in media. You can tie all of that unknown data together and still personalize experiences.”

For example, Rakhi says a brand could be launching a new line of blue shirts and, with it, wants to roll out a customer acquisition campaign. “Based on the data, your analysts may tell you customers who browse blue jeans also tend to buy blue shirts,” she says. “To drive blue shirt sales, your brand can personalize experiences to people browsing blue jeans without identifying them personally.”

Beyond this level of personalization, Rakhi also recommends that brands look for correlations between individual behavior — how people buy in certain locations or during certain times of year, for example — and bundles of products.

“Customers in rural areas might prefer yellow pants over blue jeans, which would likely change your blue shirt targeting,” says Rakhi. “Additional types of data like IP addresses can also come in handy when drawing these correlations.”

This, Ronell explains, is a smart approach, whether it’s an opt-out issue or simply a new business trying to deliver meaningful personalization to its growing audience.

“Understanding the general profile of your customer in a segment gives you a level of detail to at least start in a direction,” he says. “Then, as they interact with your brand, you augment it, based on their interactions.”

This keeps brands on the safe side of regulation and consumer desires for privacy, while still empowering them to deliver experiences that feel personalized. Doing this, though, requires significant cross-departmental collaboration.

Bringing it all together in the name of experiences

Granted, this isn’t a solo endeavor. To pull these pieces together and deliver this level of relevance, even without a customer’s email address, requires cross-departmental collaboration and asset sharing, all in the name of a common goal.

“Brands must work with their IT and legal teams to define the rules and regulations around the data that they are collecting,” Rakhi says. “You can then decide how to personalize experiences, while staying compliant with not only regulatory bodies, but also with company policies that are also important to your brand.”

This requires breaking down silos between marketing and IT, and educating both sides on the collective goals behind these initiatives. This, explains Jim Rivera, head of product for Adobe Experience Platform, is often easier said than done.

“In the vast majority of enterprises, the needed data will get stored in any number of different databases, data lakes, and warehouses,” he says. “Customer data isn’t always in one place. It can be in tens or even hundreds of different, separately managed databases and technologies, often managed by teams that don’t have much interaction.”

Bringing this data together also means unifying the “business languages” in which data is written, says Ronell. “When you have data that’s been siloed for decades, that data’s interpreted in one way, but once you bring it together in one system, you need to make sure that the language or the taxonomy is consistent.”

Overcoming this is a critical step in delivering relevant experiences while also meeting regulatory guidelines. Before companies can start securing consumer data, they need to know which data is where, especially data that can be tied to specific customers.

“Many of these companies don’t know where that data is,” says Jim. “They need to go through a process of inventory, analyzing what kind of data is in these different repositories and determining if this data is personally identifiable or not.”

Having gained this deeper understanding of where data is kept and whether it is attributable to customers, you’re in a much better position to create company policies that take into account the nuances between different data types and the needs of different data consumers, and prevent risky, potentially illegal uses of the data.

“For example, you may be purchasing data from a third-party provider to enrich a profile you have on a user,” says Rakhi. “But, the third-party data provider has asked you in your partnership agreement to not send segments with their data in the profile to your media outlets, due to legal reasons.” Brands will need to be aware of and provide policy to honor these agreements, and keep all parties on the right side of regulation.

This exercise also trains all parties involved to better understand all of the data available to them and the needs of each group of data consumers, from IT to marketing to company executives — and how all of that can be converted into more efficiently personalized experiences.

Done right and respectfully, personalized experiences can help brands earn the trust of data-shy consumers — which, in turn, can move the customer to give consent on email or other key data points. But, again, by simply starting with cookie data to consistently deliver a high degree of personalization, Rakhi says, brands can get there.

“Everybody wants personalized experiences, even if they don’t know it,” she says, while acknowledging that this has to be done with care. “They just don’t want the experience to be creepy, so you need to be really cognizant that you’re serving up ads and different website experiences in a way that is respectful of the consumer.”

Ronell agrees. “I think sometimes we approach this as, ‘Let me shove more product on them, and then they’ll buy more.’ But the truth is that customers are saying, ‘I want you to connect with me and realize I’m a person — and that then inspires me to love your brand even more, and then acquire more.’”

Read more about enterprise organizations putting their data to work in The Data Rush: How to Strike it Rich series and Burst Open the Black Box on AI-Driven Personalization. Then get more insights on why data scientists are in demand.