In today’s online world, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about companies collecting their personal data. Yet when it comes to today’s marketing, it’s all about data.

    Data Concerns Make Consumers — and Marketers — Wary

    Data and online privacy have been growing concerns, especially as marketers have increased personalization efforts and made data-gathering efforts more evident, and mass data leaks have flooded newspapers and feeds. The industry has reacted in recent years by calling for the elimination of third-party cookies used by advertisers to track a web user’s activity (keep in mind that third-party cookies differ from first-party cookies, which are used by individual sites to remember data like a user’s personal settings). Not only are marketers tasked with informing consumers about the data they may collect via online channels, but also providing them a means to opt out. Laws, regulations, and organizations are also making it more difficult for marketers to collect this information. For instance, Google will be phasing out third-party cookies from their Chrome browser by the end of 2023. However, offline data, predictive analytics, and other forms of data may have a more dominant role in both mail and online media in the near future.

    Use First-Party Data to Inform Your Campaign

    The first step is to utilize what you have. Using first-party data, and combining it with analytics, device IDs, and identity graphs, we can market to people with direct mail and online channels based on advanced analytics that use offline and online data as well as behavioral data. Postal address and other publicly available information can also act as a match key. According to research done by Factual, 80% of consumers are comfortable with brands using data they share directly. This is where direct mail shines, because it removes the obstacle of online privacy by taking the issue offline.

    Companies capture data about their customers and prospects that allows them to produce more relevant mail than ever before. Not to mention, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found in their 2021 Response Rate Report that — once again — mail has the highest ROI of all direct marketing channels. Surveys from the USPS show that 73% of households say that they read or scan their mail daily. Combining direct mail with two to three other channels creates a multichannel experience that encompasses all aspects of a consumer’s life and increases response across all channels.

    Exchange Relevancy for Data

    Without question, consumers are concerned about their data and privacy, and are less likely to be willing to share personal information and habits… unless there’s something in it for them. Consumers expect companies to communicate relevant offers and solicitations for products that interest them. At times, this expectation overrides data concerns. Consumers in America are willing to trade a reasonable amount of new information for relevant marketing communications. Research done by BCG and Google shows that two-thirds of consumers want personalized ads that suit their interests, yet nearly half are uncomfortable sharing the data needed to create personalized ads.

    The solution is to build trust. Trust is crucial in making this work, and the best way to build trust quickly is by providing transparency and options. The report by Factual states that over half of respondents say they are willing to share data with companies if the company is more transparent. Simply being upfront with consumers about what data you’re collecting and using, and providing options for how to manage the communications you send, will go far in reassuring them that you’re using their information appropriately. It’s also paramount that you express how you’re actively working to protect their privacy and safeguard the information they’ve willingly given you.

    Striking a Balance Between Data, Personalization, and Consumers’ Expectations of Privacy

    It’s an impossible ask: deliver relevant, personalized content without using any data. The Factual research shows that personalized content helps consumers find products they like (53%) and makes them feel like the company cares about their needs (36%), proving that efforts to utilize data in a responsible way is well worth it. Realistically, consumers can’t have both, but marketers can use data in such a way that it informs a campaign without it becoming the focus.

    Try using the data differently. Instead of inserting a bunch of data points into a message and hoping for the best, look at how that information can inform the best way to market to your consumer. This entails analyzing the many attributes of compiled data to fully understand customers and prospects, and this information can then be utilized to create personalized, one-to-one omnichannel campaigns. This same modeled data can be used to create custom audiences for social ads, or send one-to-one geo-mapped mobile campaigns to individuals on the file. The end result is highly personalized direct marketing with messaging specifically targeted to individual prospects who are most likely to respond to the offer. Using one set of data with multiple messaging strategies deployed through direct mail and partner channels can drive response and make the most efficient use of your marketing budget.

    Creating a holistic direct marketing strategy using data can feel like it’s full of minefields, but you’ll manage to avoid them by treating each customer as a person. Try imagining having to make the same pitch in your direct marketing campaign to your consumer’s face — would they be comfortable with a stranger knowing all that information about them? Would you feel comfortable?

    It takes a nuanced hand and expert eyes, but striking the right balance between data and personalization can become the secret to your next successful omnichannel marketing campaign.

    Wes Sparling is SVP Marketing Strategy and Data Analytics at IWCO Direct, where he evaluates the effectiveness of clients’ current direct marketing efforts and sets the strategic direction for future campaigns. He can be reached at

    This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2022 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.