Digital marketers intuitively know that a personalized and seamless customer experience is more effective, more engaging, and ultimately good for business. Personalization at scale is not easy though, and it’s a significant investment for brands in people, process and technology.

To compound the personalization challenge, online privacy concerns are at an inflection point. GDPR regulations in Europe and any number of recent data breaches and privacy scandals in the United States are creating a situation in which the detailed individual data that brands need in order to achieve that personalization is becoming more expensive, legally tricky or impossible to get.

Does that mean brands should give up on personalization? Absolutely not!

To prove the point, the software and technology giant Adobe recently tried to quantify just how much more effective, engaging and good for business that personalized experiences can be. At their recent Adobe Summit Digital Marketing Conference in Las Vegas, they highlighted the performance of businesses that focus on customer experience over other priorities, and that they can expect serious results compared to companies that don’t. The report conducted in conjunction with Forrester noted that experience focused businesses saw a 1.6x increase in brand awareness, 1.9x increase in average order value, 1.6x increase in customer lifetime value, and 36% faster revenue growth rates among others.

Source: Adobe

Connected, consistent and memorable customer experiences that drive results like Adobe is touting require marketing technologies to know who you are and to be able to provide content that is relevant and personalized to you at that moment.

Knowing who you are across every digital device you interact with is no easy feat – and MarTech is now rising to the challenge with CDPs (Customer Data Platforms), DMPs, and more advanced CRMs. These platforms organize first, second and third-party data cross-channel and cross-device, and attempt to link it all to unified customer profiles. Even when on a different device or logged out, these systems will attempt to identify website visitors via other identifiers such as browser configuration, social handles, behavioral patterns and so on.

While knowing who you are is key, companies then need to be able to deliver relevant and personalized content to you. Massive content libraries with proper taxonomy and meta data are needed to meet the needs of 1-1 personalization at scale, and that requires significant investment in content itself in addition to new systems technology. AI and Machine Learning tools are now starting to play a role in creating all that content, enabling companies to generate the needed content in far more efficient and surprisingly automated ways.

Once a brand has a centralized view of their customers, and has the content to deliver to them, then they can take advantage of the thousands of solutions that connect to and use that customer data and content to personalize the customer experience. This kind of ecosystem is what drives significant business results.

All that being true, in an age of increasing privacy concerns it makes sense to now consider the balance between expected privacy and the personal data required to deliver highly personalized experiences.  The European Union’s GDPR regulations become enforceable this May, and they very clearly state that explicit permission must be given to collect and use personal data. Marketers may be wise to assume that similar regulation will happen eventually here in the United States, and this will put second party data sharing and third party data under the microscope.

If that happens, we can expect that audience and customer data will become less accessible due to the difficulties in obtaining and documenting consent. The large martech stacks have already begun making potentially sensitive data less available – reports now indicate that Google will no longer let buyers pull DoubleClick ID from DCM. While they point to GDPR as the reason, this move will certainly result in other large vendors making similar moves, and this will start pushing brands more fully into their ecosystems in order to continue to take advantage of personal data.

In addition to vendor consolidation, websites and owned digital properties – which primarily rely first-party and completely anonymous behavior tracking data for personalization and optimization – will become even more important in ensuring the quality of the overall digital experience. Consider these changing privacy concerns when designing your brands personalization data, tech and content strategy.