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When scrolling through your social feeds, you’ll often see memes filled with fear posted from scared digital natives as they call out brands and advertisers that stalk their browsing history. It seems like no one is safe. As Jim Carrey tweeted, “Sometimes I really feel like I’m being watched because every time I talk about something I start seeing ads about it on Facebook and YouTube. Reminds me of the Truman Show.”

We’ve all felt it: the gnawing feeling that brands are following us from one device to another and from our brains straight into our social feeds. Our recent TBH survey on personalization only confirms the rumblings: 70% of 18-34-year-olds feel that brands are following them online, and 47% describe personalization as “creepy.”

On the flip slide, brands have seen the positive effects of advanced targeting and personalization, and they are all in. In fact, a recent survey by Retail Touch Points and Oracle found that 87% of retailers say that personalization has become a bigger priority in 2018. However, brands need to be careful not to turn off consumers who are ready to jump off the journey at any point. Case in point: over half of 18-34-year-olds say they have abandoned their shopping cart to explore what other discounts or offers they could get.

When it comes to personalization, there’s a fine line between creep and love. Here are some highlights of that tension:

Although personalization is going through some growing pains, Millennials see the value — and they want brands to get better at it. Eighty-two-percent of 18-34-year-olds report having received a useful personalized recommendation in the past, and nearly half of them believe that brands can better use their personal information to make recommendations.

So how can brands stay out of the creep-zone? Here are some pointers to stay on the lovable side of the thin line:

If you don’t want to be a creep, be transparent.
When it comes to personal data, transparency is EVERYTHING. Sixty-two-percent of respondents say that they don’t mind receiving personalized content as long as the brand doesn’t use their name or other personal information. If consumers do give brands their information, they want to know how their personal shopping experience will improve. Four out of five 18-34-year-olds like it when brands provide them with curated and personalized lists, and 55% have made a purchase after a brand recommended it.

The love you give is the love you get.
Notoriously fickle when it comes to brand loyalty, there is one way to get these consumers to love you just a bit more: reward them. Seventy-five percent of Millennials agree that they are more loyal to brands that reward them for being a repeat customer. Additionally, strategically-timed discounts are essential. We asked our panel what they would do if they received a discount for a product they were researching but had not yet purchased; nearly two thirds would be compelled to at least engage with the brand online. This demonstrates that timely and accurate promotions can drive consumers down the purchase funnel.

To win hearts, be entertaining.
When it comes to personalization, younger Millennials are more skeptical than their older Millennial counterparts. Only 43% of 18-24-year-olds say they are more likely to purchase from a brand that makes personalized recommendations, vs. 60% of older Millennials. Additionally, 53% of 18-24-year-olds say that when a brand doesn’t always “sell” to them, it makes them trust the brand more — only 43% of 25-35-year-olds say the same. If young consumers don’t want you to always sell to them, what can you do? Be entertaining.

Personalization is a constant balancing act, where any teetering into the creep zone can be an epic fail. Consumers see the positive side of personalization but are hungry for entertainment and real connection. To stay out of the creep zone, brands need to embrace transparency, reward loyal consumers, and invest in compelling storytelling.