Balancing Personalization & Privacy for Shoppers on Social Media

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Balancing Personalization & Privacy for Shoppers on Social Media

Social media platforms have taken a prominent place in the information ecosystem, offering users the benefits of personal connection in exchange for behavioral data and attention for advertising. Our research found that most shoppers also use it to gather information about their potential purchases, so the commodification of the space and its content goes both ways. But shoppers have concerns about their data and privacy, with implications for brands who use social platforms to reach their target audience.

Our Shopper Influence Research program kicked off with a study of 6,000 US-based recent purchasers across six different product and service categories. The findings include rich insights about how shoppers use social media on the purchase journey, along with interesting caveats related to consumer privacy. Here’s a preview of what we’ve published about how these social shoppers feel about the issue in our Shoppers & Social Media Report, available now:


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Shoppers want curation services that require data.

Personalization isn’t just a fad that a few people want. We found that 54% of shoppers prefer retailers that offer a personalized shopping experience, and 42% tell us that they value services that suggest product options based on their individual past browsing or purchase history. Whether that’s in-store curation, algorithmic recommendations, “Suggested for You” tags, or “based on your previous search” notes – these features have a growing constituency and there’s an opportunity for both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar operations to provide value to shoppers here.

Read More: Who Uses Social Media on Their Path to Purchase?


At the same time, they distrust some of the platforms and data collection.

Those shopper attitudes come with a big caveat, particularly online and with social media platforms. Data security matters to the modern shopper, with 59% telling us that protecting users’ personal data is something they strongly consider or is a dealbreaker for them when choosing a brand. They want to feel secure during their shopping experience, even before checkout.


Shoppers don’t stop there. According to a Washington Post-Schar School poll, users are more likely to generally distrust social media platforms than they are to trust them. Further, nearly three-quarters say that collecting data for targeted advertising is “invasive” and an “unjustified use of people’s private information”, and two-thirds believe that the US should have stronger privacy regulations. Using social media to reach shoppers using personalization is entirely possible and can definitely be profitable, but it’s a delicate needle for marketers to thread.


What should brands & marketers do?

Reaching shoppers on social media is a good idea for most brands. But what we need here is a balance between personalization and privacy. When you’re building a social media and personalization strategy, consider the following:

  1. Get fresh market research on your target audience. Understand how shoppers in your specific category are using social media for information about their shopping, and evaluate which personalization opportunities hold the most value for them. Then, make sure you ask about their attitudes towards these tactics to understand the nuance of what attracts them and what would turn them away.
  2. Build trust with your current and prospective customers. Shoppers can easily spot inauthentic or intrusive messaging. Consider how your marketing tactics might be viewed by the people you’re trying to reach and be sure that you don’t overstep polite boundaries. If using someone’s data for targeted messaging on social media will make them feel weird about your brand or products, don’t do it!
  3. Proceed with transparency and candor. Today’s shoppers can spot distortion and spin from miles away. This is a big part of building trust with them – say what you mean, and do what you say when it comes to data and privacy. And if something goes wrong and your brand experiences a data breach, be up front and proactive about remedying the situation.


We’ve got more insights to share in the report! Each category is different, so if you’re interested in learning more about our Shopper Influence Research program and how it can help you boost your brand, we’re happy to talk.


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