When I first heard that some states were wanting to charge drivers for every mile traveled, I was baffled. Aside from the fact that I do not want to pay for every mile I drive, I also don’t like the way the information would be collected. Putting a GPS in my car? Making me report miles using my smartphone? No thanks. It all sounds a little – Big Brotherish.

It seems that many things are starting to feel “Big Brother” or “Nanny” these days, and some of us don’t think twice about it. After all, this type of intuitive technology allows the things we use to understand us better. The end result is a better user experience.

Whether it’s smart appliances, streaming services like Netflix or our personal devices, technology is becoming more perceptive with every new wave. The more we use an item, the better it understands us and adapts to our needs. Even though the information being collected may be done in a spy-like way, does anyone really care?

It turns out that people do.

As a matter of fact, some people say that personalization is downright creepy.

Personalization Gone Wrong

According to a study by Ipsos, 68 percent of US smartphone users admit that they are concerned about having their online activity tracked so that advertisers can present them with more targeted information.

These feelings are understandable. No one likes the feeling that they are being watched. But it goes without saying that when we use the internet, our behaviors are tracked to some degree.

But as an advertiser, how are you supposed to serve your customers targeted, personalized content without looking creepy?

Personalizing Content That People Will Love

Below are some of the ways that you can effectively personalize your content so that it aligns with your customers’ needs and not look like you’re watching their every move.

Put Your Audience First

Following your audience around is an obvious way to learn more about them. But you can also understand your audience simply by being them. In other words, think like your audience does.

Let’s say that your business sells photo editing software. What do your customers use the software for? What types of frustrations do they commonly experience with their photos? Why do they choose your software over others? How much are they willing to pay to edit their photos? Which features do they most commonly use in your software?

All of these questions help you to think like your audience. By putting yourself in their shoes, you can get a good feel for how you can personalize your content without it looking forced.

Include Value in Every Item

Personalization can mean a lot of things. You don’t have to know your customer’s name and the type of underwear they’re wearing (unless you sell underwear, of course) to make your content relevant to them. Personalization comes from understanding and also value.

Everything you present your audience with should have value. There is a new range of behaviors that are opened up thanks to personalization. Look for more opportunities to weave new experiences and products into the customer journey.

Personalization should help you build relationships and create better ways to do things, not scare your customers away. If you’re not sure how a customer would perceive something, think back to the basics of value. If you can provide your customers with something that they need or could benefit from, this in itself is personalization.

…Also Think About Relevance

Relevance is another efficient way to personalize your interactions. Everyone loves relevance, so you can rest easy that you won’t be crossing the lines into creepy territory.

Think about Amazon and the experience they provide to customers. If you’ve ever shopped on the site, one of the things you probably enjoy most is that it is highly relevant. Search for any product and you’ll be given a list of the most pertinent items. Heck, you can even search for products by their relevancy!

The site also does a nice job of cross-selling or up-selling products, as well as showing ads for related products. None of this feels Big Brotherish, right? No. It’s called being relevant.

As you look for ways to interact with your customers, think about how you can be direct with their needs and also up-sell other products or services that will enhance their lives.

Be Warm and Inviting

Another way to personalize your content is to make your visitors feel welcome. Almost like you have been expecting them, but not in a weird, stalkerish way. Rather, convey feelings of happiness that they have landed on your material and eagerness to show them what you have to offer.

A good way to do this is by presenting personalized content where users expect it, such as after opting in to an email list or following you on social media. When people choose to be a part of something bigger, they expect the interactions to pick up a bit.

If, however, you start bombarding visitors with invitations, offers and requests when they’re not ready or expecting it, they may feel weirded out.

The goal is to make visitors feel welcome and “in the right place at the right time.”

Wrapping it Up

The next time you hear someone say that they think personalization is creepy, ask them why. A lot of times, it’s the fact that personalization is misunderstood. That’s why it’s important for you to define what personalization means to you and how you plan on using it to fulfill your goals.

At the end of the day, personalization is a very necessary tool for interacting with your customers. If you don’t personalize your content, it’s going to feel flat and dull. It will have very little direction, which means it won’t speak to anyone in particular. This will make it difficult for people to feel a connection with you.

Personalization is brilliant. Just be sure to use it in the right way – a way that includes knowing your audience, incorporating relevance and value and being warm and inviting.