The rise of AI-powered digital assistants has been nothing short of phenomenal, with the number in use set to triple to 8 billion within the next few years. Yet there has been a simultaneous rise in consumer scepticism about these smart devices, which are gaining a reputation for being ‘creepy’. Anecdotally, we’ve all heard about times where targeted adverts have alarmed people and been somewhat intrusive with their level of accuracy and personalisation. Recent studies also reflect this sentiment, with over two thirds of people stating that they found it creepy when they received ads based on what they said in conversations without prompting their voice assistant.

Tech companies are also waking up to consumer concern about voice assistants; Amazon, Google, and Apple have all amended their privacy policies following reports that their voice assistants were eavesdropping on users, and Rick Osterloh, SVP Devices & Services at Google, recently admitted to the BBC that homeowners should warn their guests that smart devices may be listening to them.

Alongside voice assistants, other newer marketing channels such as Instagram Stories, may not be immune from privacy concerns – especially if consumers wrongly assume that similar issues arise. So, what does this growing mistrust of newer channels mean for marketers? Is it really enough to notify users whenever their privacy is compromised? What should marketers do differently to ensure they do not alienate consumers?


Personalisation is nothing new; from the dawn of modern consumerism, offering a personal touch was a key differentiator for high-quality retailers and service providers keen to set themselves apart from the rest. Remembering client names, previous purchases or children’s birthdays added that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that bonded retailer to customer. It fostered loyalty, repeat business and positive word of mouth marketing.

Today’s connected consumers now want personalised messages and product recommendations at every touch point with a brand – an expectation that is being driven by skyrocketing advances in technology. But more than that, brands that don’t invest in personalisation will lose customers to competitors that do manage to keep consumers engaged in personal relationships that grow over time. According to an Accenture study, over 75 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase from retailers that know their name and purchase history and provide recommendations that are appropriately on-taste. And in a global study of consumers, Selligent found that 52 percent of consumers are more inclined to change brands if a company doesn’t offer personalised communication.

Consistency is also crucial; consumers value personalised experiences, but these experiences need to be delivered consistently across channels. Picture this: a customer receives an email and clicks through to a brand’s website, from there the customer opts to call the brand’s contact centre. In this scenario, the agent who takes that call should have real-time information of the customer’s journey so they can provide the next best action, unique to that customer. Only through the convergence of marketing and CX will brands be able to develop a 360-degree view of the customer and deliver a truly personalised experience across all platforms.

While personalisation has become commonplace today, it has never been more important to get it right. Marketers walk a very fine line between positive personalised experiences and ‘creepiness’ – between giving customers exactly what they want and pushing them away. Marketers need to capitalise on technology trends without losing the consumer trust they worked so hard to obtain.


Marketers face the challenge of how to balance the use of customers’ data without encroaching on their privacy. In this post-GDPR world, consumers are more aware of the value of their data and are less tolerant of it being used in the wrong way.

Research shows that 41% of users reduced their social media usage within the last 12 months due to privacy concerns. For many more – 74% – privacy is more important than online experience. These are sobering figures for marketers whose job it is to get close to customers, to know their story, and to respond in appropriate ways.

But consumers are also savvy and understand that they need to share their personal data for the connected, personal and relevant experiences they value. According to the Selligent Connected Consumer Index, 51 per cent of consumers are willing to share personal details for a more personalised experience. So, how can marketers leverage this opportunity? In embracing newer marketing channels, how can they get the balance right?

Relevancy and Responsibility

It is essential to balance privacy with relevance to avoid scaring and annoying customers to the point they feel uneasy and switch off from the brand’s communications. And the repercussions extend way beyond losing a customer; misusing data could see an organisation incur devastating GDPR fines and a damaged reputation.

This points to the importance of leveraging consumer data in a responsible way, and the need for marketers to prioritise relevancy. By taking a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing to the connected consumers, marketers fail to maximise the moment and convey their message when it’s most likely to resonate. Doing this leaves consumers with a positive impression, a credible brand, and resonance that can carry forward towards conversion.

What you can do

There are some simple steps businesses can take. New technology can handle journey design and product recommendations, but marketers are responsible for keeping these interactions beneath stalker levels. Marketers must think carefully about how relevant and timely automated triggers are and use take advantage of the technologies which facilitate send-time optimisation for marketing messages.

Brands can enlist AI to translate customer intelligence into relevant offers. Most consumers will “ghost” a brand that sends too many irrelevant offers. Let AI engines crunch real-time data from universal consumer profiles into on-taste, situational offers that are highly targeted.

Finally, marketers need to keep carefully balancing personalisation with privacy to succeed. They can do this by carefully focusing on the customer experience and using technology to foster a long-term relationship built on trust and understanding. Get it right, and the rewards of fostering profitable, long-lasting relationships with consumers are immense. Ultimately. it is about not playing it safe. Marketers should be empowered to embrace new channels and outshine the competition.

Tim Stone

Tim Stone


By Tim Stone, Global Head of Revenue Marketing, Selligent Marketing Cloud..