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Emily ShineAug 8, 2022 12:00:00 AM8 min read

Privacy-First Personalization: 12 Challenges to Conquer This Year

Without the strategy, people, and processes in place, privacy-first personalization is a pipe dream.

Personalization and other digital transformation initiatives aren’t about plugging in the latest application. It’s about connection to the larger strategic plan and goals. When you peel away the layers though, you’ll notice the apparent "personalization-privacy paradox" isn't what it seems.

You can actually flip the script on how personalization works in the privacy-first world. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

Rather than pitting personal privacy against real-time personalization, why not create a win-win for both? Balance the best of both worlds is a powerful way to gain a huge competitive edge.

This post walks through the main obstacles to achieving privacy-first personalization and how to leverage them to your advantage.

Let's jump right in.

#1 - Planning and Adopting the Strategic Plan

When it comes to privacy and personalization, one of the biggest mistakes is prioritizing tools rather than processes and responsibilities. Your first considerations should be your business vision, organizational structure, and processes.

You need a solid strategic plan with organization-wide support before the right software tools and tech solutions can be deployed.

Strategic planning and adoption is a continuous process. You analyze and refine as you go.


#2 - The “Omnichannel” Reality

Your association’s members and website users are using more channels and devices to interact with your brand than ever before. Rising to the complexities of this “omnichannel” reality has been a pain point for many organizations.

complexities of Omni-Channel experience

You need a 360 view of data and the ability to unlock the power of that data to create personalized omnichannel experiences safely and consistently. 

Get the right strategy and technology in place to de-silo all your first-party data and stay on top of rapidly changing digital expectations.

#3 - Changing Digital Expectations

Your website visitors and members are just like any other consumer in terms of their digital expectations. They demand control over how, why, and when their personal data is used. Your audience expects your brand to know them better with each passing day.

Dedicate more resources to deliver the transformative member experience that your audience expects.

#4 - Delivering greater value than cost

When privacy-first personalization initiatives fail, it puts your user relationships at stake. You must carefully manage the personalization process to deliver greater value than cost. If not, you can suffer operational disruption, increased overhead, and even reputational damage. 

pitfalls of personalization and privacy initiatives

While the average user understands the importance of data privacy and security, there also seems to be a willingness to exchange personal data in exchange for personalization! In fact, people tend to appreciate personalization so long as it’s based on informed consent and data they’ve directly shared. 

McKinsey’s 2021 Next in Personalization report highlights a key takeaway that underscores the power of personalization: 

"Seventy-one percent of [users] expect [organizations] to deliver personalized interactions. And seventy-six percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.” 

Your members are no exception to these high consumer expectations. Your members and website visitors expect (and appreciate) a tailored user experience (UX) and messaging. It’s the default standard of engagement in the digital era – or the starting point, if you will.

#5 - The Trust Deficit


Trust is a key cornestone of the digital transformation. It's also a key metric to guide your change initiatives, track performance, and gauge success.

Considering a one-point increase in the member experience can translate into millions in annual revenue, brand trust should be a prerequisite to member satisfaction initiatives.

Read More: 10 Ways to Build Trust With Members and the Public

#6 - Expanding Threat Landscape

Attackers can move quickly in the increasingly connected and complex digital landscape. This dynamic threat landscape adds to existing workplace constraints and budgeting complexities.

Bringing prioritization and transparency to the forefront through a holistic, integrated approach is vital to continuously managing organizational cyber risk.

When prioritizing threats, consider your top cyber risks, your risk appetite, and how these have been impacted by the shifting digital context. Are you investing in the right areas? How's the ROI?

Regular security assessment can help you ask the right questions and coordinate your digital and cybersecurity transformation at the same time, on one platform.

#7 - Single Source of Truth

One of the biggest challenges of personalization in a privacy-first world is the ability to make sense of complex data and translate information silos into actionable intelligence at scale.

Making privacy-first personalization last means that internal teams should have access to a single source of truth. It makes governance, investment, and data planning more fluid, achievable, and much easier to manage in the long term and across disconnected systems.

If you want to refine or scale your privacy-first personalization policies and processes, it's much easier to be proactively. You get peace of mind that all I's are dotted and T's are crossed.

You want to be able to manage data and security together across siloed business and security units. Having that work all on one platform, under one roof, improves your defenses against increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks and data breaches.

#8 - Accurate and Complete Data

Ensuring accurate, real-time behavioral data and complete member profiles is key get the best of both personalization and privacy.

As long as you remain grounded in brand/digital trust and a culture of transparency, you'll be surprised at how much data people will share with their favorite brands.

Just remember, your association's existing and future members are likely much more comfortable with your knowing more personal data about them than you'd think. Become a champion of their best interest to gather a whole lot more valuable insight than what's currently in your database.

#9 Lack of Communication and Data Sharing

Lack of communication, change management, and continuous process improvement can derail privacy-first personalization initiatives.

communication and alignment in privacy-first personalization

Given changing personalization and privacy experiences, it's important to analyze your current communications strategy and rethink your approach. Reshaping digital interactions and content intelligence strategy can help you enhance alignment between content delivery and member expectations.

Again, you want to bolster digital trust and the willingness of users to share their personal information. Respect what data is gathered and how it's collected. Then you can start integrating transparent privacy programs.

#10 - Meeting the Demands of Hyperpersonalization

Nowadays, you don’t just want to add elements of personalization to your digital experience. Keeping up with the pace of change means going beyond this baseline expectation.

The hype now is creating a high level of content/website personalization through hyper-personalization. This means truly automating individualized journeys at scale in real-time.

With the digital world charging forward at an accelerating pace, the million-dollar question has become: to personalize or to hyper-personalize?

Hyper personalization advances the use of real-time data intelligence with integrated AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics to pursue personalization with more targeted action. Basically, the goal is to gather better insights and act on that information on the spot and at scale.

To succeed, you have to make hyper-personalization a core tenet of your broader overall business strategy. It should be represented in your organization’s privacy culture and supported by your larger organizational strategy and overarching direction.

Also, hyper-personalization calls for the latest strategies and technology and keeping IT processes, tech, and people in alignment.

#11 - Establishing a Privacy Culture

Is it just me, or does it feel like new information privacy reforms are introduced each month? It's difficult to keep up with the overlapping regulatory frameworks and changes in privacy and data compliance.

Get ahead of future change by establishing an organizational privacy culture. Become a champion of digital trust. Make privacy, transparency, and data democratization digital cornerstones of your association.

#12 - Exponential Pace of Change

The evolving nature of personalization and privacy highlights the exponential speed of change. With each passing day, the smooth speed of exponential growth gobbles up everything in its path that refuses the shift. The only certainty during exponential progression is that there’s a lot more volatility and uncertainty ahead.

Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, lays bare the implications of  with his 30 steps example: 

“If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion."

The key to survival is to shift from the disrupted to the disruptor. Leveraging the new nature of change has become the primary component of business resilience and success. You have no other choice than to apply the power of exponentials to your advantage.

From a business point of view, it makes sense to keep up with the head-spinning speed of innovation. Successful personalization and privacy can go a long way to maximize the ROI of marketing, web design, data management, and beyond. It's about proactively managing the digital context and ecosystem of engagements.

Wrap Up: Personalization and Privacy

Collecting, storing, and processing user data has historically raised privacy concerns. On one hand, members appreciate and expect personalized experiences and are increasingly willing to exchange their personal information for the convenience of personalization. On the other, data privacy and security demands are on the rise.

But the heart of the issue runs much deeper. The underlying challenges of balancing personalization and privacy have nothing to do with technology barriers or skills gaps. The root issue has more to do with unclear goals and failing (or nonexistent) data governance initiatives. 

Thankfully, in today’s digital world, you can leverage personalization while still complying with rules. Personalization and privacy are not mutually exclusive.

It’s actually much easier and more cost-effective to give your members the best of both worlds than it has been in the past. Get in touch with us to kickstart your personalization and privacy initiatives.