August 2014. In This Issue:
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editor's CUT

Editor's Cut: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…and they’re always glad you came…” You’re welcome for that earworm.

But seriously, as I sit here in yet another Hilton Hotel after being on yet another American Airlines flight, an old episode of Cheers quite fittingly came on TV. I thought that in an age where marketers are in search of customer loyalty, is this what we think our customers want—a place where everyone knows their name and everyone is glad they came?

The answer: probably. But in reality, not all customers want this. And that, my friends, is the rub. To launch another earworm, “You gotta know when to hold ’em…know when to fold ’em.”

Not every customer wants to be greeted by name every time they walk into a store. I know it would creep me out if the greeter at the Gap said, “Oh, hi Liz!” I’d get a complex and assume I shopped there too much. On the other hand, when I check in at the Hilton, I do not want to go through all of the questions about what room I like and what type of bed I prefer.

I’ve talked about it before, but that is the creepy line: the line of demarcation between familiarity and being downright icky. Yes, that is the official term: icky.

Consider this:

• 56 percent of consumers say they are more likely to return to a website that recommends products (Marketing Charts)

• 74 percent of consumers get frustrated when the recommendations have nothing to do with their actual interests (Harris Interactive)

• 40 percent of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize across all channels (MyBuys)

It is clear that customers crave relevance, and we as marketers have been taking our customers’ lead by ramping up personalization strategies to better engage on a one-on-one level. We have abandoned the idea that personalization equals mail merging (go us!) but have somehow still latched onto the idea that because we personalize, our customers are happy to hear from us all the time, everywhere they turn. Some of us have turned into that irritating kid at school who just doesn’t get the hint. Sometimes people want to blend into a crowd and be anonymous.

As we get more sophisticated with our strategies, we need to take a deeper, more analytical look at how we are communicating, not just what we are pushing out the door. Does every email need to be a highly personalized? When and where do customers want to be greeted by name, and when are they just passively searching? When does privacy trump personalization?

Just because we can doesn’t mean we always should. That tends to be the hardest reality to keep in mind as these new digital channels reveal so many new ways to engage. Perhaps some real-world thinking is required. Are we providing a service or being a stalker? Find the creepy line, and put your toes up against it…just don’t cross over it.

Until next month!