Marketing Strategy / Questions (for you)

When does personalisation become too creepy?


How would you feel if a person you never met before greeted you by name as you browsed the shelves in your local department store or waited in line for a cupcake?

Geolocation apps – such as Foursquare – exist as far as I can see to allow the consumer to get free (or discounted) stuff as a reward for regular patronage.

On the bag of this comes free WOM marketing for the companies concerned.

For example, Parklife Cafe in Worthing gives the ‘Mayor’ a free cupcake when they check in. So if I become Mayor, I get free food.

The pay off is that my regular check-ins act as WOM endorsement for the fine coffee and cake within.

In other words, consumer and outlet could be winners.

However, there is another opportunity here – micro personalised service.

Imagine if you check into an outlet like Parklife (small, artisan) or your local department store (large, impersonal) and suddenly someone you’ve never met greets you by name either on the shop floor or at the check out.

How would you feel about that?

In theory, it shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange – assuming that the person checking-in uses a real picture as their avatar. (I’m also assuming that businesses are able to see who is checked-in at any one point)

If the shop floor team had tablets displaying the people checked-in, or if this information was displayed on the ePos system, matching avatar to human being wouldn’t be too hard.

Would it be creepy to be addressed by name as you choose your coffee or try to find a pair of trousers that fit?

Part of me thinks that it might. I’m not sure I want to be hounded by people I don’t know but who know my name.

Then I remember that I put this data into the public domain willingly, simply by using the service.

So I shouldn’t be too surprised if this were to happen.

However, if I were a business owner, I would be looking to use this sort of technology to make a new connection with my customers. I could greet someone who used to check in a lot, but who hasn’t been through the door in months. I could surprise a regular patron with an unexpected free gift.

I could equalise the relationship – after all, if I worked in a shop, I’d have a name badge so the customer would know who I am even though I didn’t know them.

But, as a customer, I’m not sure that I would like it. Or maybe I would. Until it happens, I just don’t know.

So what do you think? As a customer, what would your reaction be? As a marketer, what promise could this hold? As a business owner, would you ever march up to me and say “Hello Mr Hopkins, I see you’ve checked in on Foursquare – can I help you with something today?”

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2 thoughts on “When does personalisation become too creepy?

  1. Pingback: Marketing Monday – 5 Must Read Stories (Daily Strategic Bulletin For 06 Feb 2012) |

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