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Personalise with purpose: Building trust that drives business value

Your customers have never cared more about your business’s values and business practices than they do today. And they’re voting — decisively — with their wallets. Today’s savvy consumers expect you to protect their privacy and deliver individualised experiences. This expectation creates a formidable challenge — and a significant opportunity

Our research uncovered both an opportunity cost of not protecting trust, and significant upside to protecting trust. And that upside might be greater than you think. Today’s modern marketers have an opportunity to deliver better personalised experiences without compromising trust.

The ROI of creating trust

Let’s first establish the business value of building trust. Trust means different things to different people. We conducted research, uncovering the drivers of trust with consumers across multiple verticals. We also spoke with marketers and agencies about how they view trust. To marketers, upholding trust means doing the necessary things to protect people’s privacy, being ethical and responsible, and ensuring your products do what you say they will do. To people, building trust in those ways is critically important. But it’s not enough. There’s a significant opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level, in a way that builds trust that creates business value. 

It’s critical for marketers to understand that trust goes beyond just protecting customer data and respecting their privacy. It’s a requirement for getting into the consideration set. In our survey, 85% of people say they’ll only consider a brand if they trust the brand. Once you’re in the consideration set, trust is how you can build greater brand love and loyalty that creates higher lifetime value. There’s a 76% correlation between trust and brand love — as trust increases, it impacts peoples’ love for a brand (Marketing with Purpose makes a difference). The way to build brand love is by reflecting what people value in your marketing. 

Across all the verticals we studied, the number one driver of trust is being genuine and authentic. Think about it this way: when you first meet someone, it’s important that you make a good impression. The next step in developing a relationship is to start building trust. But to create a deeper, more meaningful relationship, you need to understand the person. What it is that they want, need and value. All too often, marketers fail to create a sustained relationship because they don’t understand their customers’ values. They fall back on a transactional one which can only last so long — until the next comparable product comes along with better pricing. By understanding the values of your customer and reflecting those values in your advertising, you build a more genuine, authentic, and sustainable relationship. 

We’ve identified two strategies that are important to creating that genuine and authentic experience that drives brand loyalty — being inclusive and creating more purposefully personalised experiences.  We’re going to discuss purposeful personalisation here, but you can check out Inclusive Marketing: Five mindset shifts every brand can make for opportunities to build trust through being inclusive.

Personalisation with purpose

Personalisation can be hard. In fact, marketers today are struggling with this very thing. Only 1 in 7 marketers feel they’re doing personalisation right. Tactics that aim to connect through false familiarity don’t earn trust — they ​get ignored or even blocked. And it can be all too easy to overstep and alienate people by making them question how their data are being used. Personalisation isn’t just about special offers based on previous purchase behaviour, or ads deemed relevant to online behaviour.

We know that most marketers don’t want to come across as invasive or creepy with their advertising. For the most part, personalised advertising, remarketing and using people’s names in an email is all done to connect and engage familiarly. But as we all know from personal experience, it often comes across as ‘fake.’

The goal of purposeful personalisation is to come across as genuine and authentic. In the relationship analogy we used earlier, be more like the friend that understands you and makes you smile because they’re genuine. You want your brand to be that familiar, reliable, and understanding friend.

Being more purposeful in your personalisation strategy is first about understanding what people value and then delivering experiences that are better because of it. ​There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Resonating with people means striking different chords in different categories. ​Your data must go deep enough to uncover what people truly want and their expectations in engaging with your brand and products.

Our trust research showed that trust increases in brands that deliver personalisation in the following ways:
  • In Automotive, it’s all about standing for what people believe in. ​To make people feel like the brand is for them, it’s important that it aligns with their values.
  • In Travel, it’s about experiences that recognise individuality. ​People want brands to provide an experience that feels the brand recognises them and understands how important they are.
  • In Retail, it’s about making people feel the brand is built for them. ​They want to know you have the right products, high-quality merchandise and their favourite brands (if you’re a retailer), which go a long way in making a better connection.
  • In Financial Services, ​it’s all about value, education and service. ​ Make sure to provide good value and ​competitive pricing in addition to teaching people how to manage their finances and prepare for the future.
When you understand the kind of personalisation that’s meaningful to people, and when you deliver that brand experience genuinely and authentically, you earn people’s trust and create a worthwhile exchange for the data you collect from them. That’s adding purpose to personalisation.

It’s a balancing act — always err toward transparency

In another research study we conducted in 2019 (The core building blocks of a high-performing data strategy), speaking to over 200 marketers and agencies in the US and UK who are striving for data-driven marketing excellence, 20% of those who are excelling at data-driven marketing are 4.5X more concerned than other marketers about consumer backlash when it comes to protecting peoples’ privacy and data. These marketing leaders are putting their utmost focus on protecting people’s privacy — which includes the proper handling of data and respect for people’s right to share or withhold their personal data. 

And here’s how they’re handling that:
  • 64% are offering consumers incentives to share data.
  • 59% are gaining a better understanding from their customers on how their data can be used.
  • 59% are conveying to their customers the value they are getting in exchange for their data.
These marketing leaders know they must get smarter about realising the promise of a better customer experience and the importance of trust. Privacy and data protection aren’t necessarily handcuffing them, but instead are a reason to think about how best to deliver value to their customers. Even as these leaders are more likely to use customer data, they’re also more likely to be transparent about this use and put appropriate safeguards in place to protect these data.

Insights build better connections and genuine understanding

What can you do to better understand what people value and then action on it in a way that doesn’t compromise trust?

Search is the number one source of first-party data that marketing leaders use to better understand the customer decision journey and audience intent. It’s a behavioural insights engine that produces a wealth of intelligence, and it’s how Microsoft Advertising has built an in-depth understanding of customer decision journeys across many verticals and product categories

To enhance your customer understanding, which can further impact your marketing, we combine our first-party data with your valuable (second-party) data and apply third-party data from trusted sources to create a more holistic view of the customer decision journey, including offline and online behaviours.  All of this happens in a privacy-compliant manner. When machine learning is applied, it can pinpoint audiences better based on their intent. Personalisation and targeting that feels more like serendipity!

Values drive value

With the basics of privacy covered, you can now do even more to build trust that creates business value. Purposeful personalisation starts with trust. Be sure you’re delivering on marketing and advertising promises. Always respect your customers’ privacy and proactively solve their issues. Then you can build more authentic, personal connections by making sure that what you’re selling (and the brand you’re representing) is just right for them — available, genuine, and aligned with their values.

Learn more

Explore videos, guidance, and stories on how to start Marketing with Purpose.

Sources: Microsoft Advertising and LRW Research: “Uncovering the Trust Drivers,” 2019 (US), and Microsoft Advertising: “The Psychology of Inclusion and the Effects in Advertising,” 2019-2020 (U.S.), Microsoft and Advertiser Perceptions study of 213 marketers and agencies in the US & UK, December 2018–January 2019.