How to Balance Data-Driven Marketing and User Privacy in 2021

That is the question, isn’t it?

In a world of data-driven personalization and marketing decisions, it is often difficult to balance your need for information gathering and a user’s demand for privacy

And even though 81% of shoppers do want brands to get to know them, and over 90% prefer to shop from brands that have sent them relevant and personalized offers, the need for privacy still holds true. 

Let’s examine how you can strike the right balance between gathering copious amounts of data and preserving your user’s privacy. 

The Importance of Data in 2021 

Whether we like it or not, modern shoppers prefer to use their smartphones, as opposed to talking to an in-store sales associate. 

The coronavirus pandemic has only strengthened our bonds with our phones. Even people who’ve never made an online purchase previously started exploring the options available to them digitally. 

In fact, a quarter of shoppers like to research products before making a purchase. And no wonder, with so much information around, why not see what a product can really do before committing to a purchase?


The other key facet of data-driven marketing is personalization, which is certainly one of the most important trends of 2021, especially for ecommerce. Personalizing the customer journey will boost your appeal, customer retention percentages, and customer loyalty. It will help you grow and expand in a world where digital marketing prevails. 

But, to be able to offer personalized suggestions, emails, push notifications, discounts, and other promotional messages, you need to get to know your customer. And that may imply a breach of privacy. 

How Much Users Value Their Privacy 

Even though they want to be offered personalized marketing, 73% of customers have growing concerns about their privacy. That’s perfectly understandable, given the extent to which some companies will go to reach new audiences. 

A lot of users find it disturbing to receive a text from a company while in their store. The same uneasy feeling often comes with seeing ads about products they’ve recently been researching. This tells them companies have a whole lot of information about them – and if a company knows what they’ve been googling, what else could they possibly know too?

It’s a bit of a paradox, isn’t it? Users want to see personalized marketing, yet they don’t want to feel like their privacy is being invaded. Marketers agree that the main hurdle on the road to effective personalization is the way data is gathered. 

So let’s see how you can gather it without stepping on any toes.

Where Data and Privacy Meet 


You’ll need to muster a significant amount of effort in order to balance the need for data-driven marketing and a user’s demand for privacy. Fortunately, there are plenty of routes to take. 

For starters, you want to empower your users and give them as much control as possible. Let them make the choices. Focus first on two key questions:

  • What kinds of messages do they want to see? Promotions, new-in notifications, discounts on favorite items, and so on? 
  • How do they want to receive these messages? Email, snail mail, text, through your app?

True, plenty of users will be annoyed by pop-ups asking for permission to do this or that. However, if you make these messages clear and explain the value of the decision, they will be more likely to consider it thoroughly. 

Explain as much about these decisions as you can and focus on helping your customers feel informed. You want them to feel that they are the ones calling all the shots. In fact, let them be the ones calling all the shots. 

You also want to make data gathering easy. For example, you can use questionnaires as well, but make them simple and fun to fill out. You can use automated processes and different tools for the purpose. Whatever you choose, the key is to inform your customers about the steps you are taking and allow them to opt out at any time.

Choose the companies you work with carefully. There have been so many cases of user data being sold that you are best off working in-house from end to end. 

Share your data collection practices in detail, and write your privacy policy in a language users can truly understand. This will be of enormous help in bridging the gap between the need for privacy and a desire for personalization.

Of course, you also want to ensure that the data you collect, as well as all the elements of your business, are completely secure at all times. This will not only help your customers feel safer but also ease your mind. Carefully choose a solution that offers features that can protect both you and your clients

Sometimes, it’s the human factor that makes all the difference, so you’ll need to train your marketers for privacy as well. Knowing how to comply with different regulations and how to put the customer’s need for privacy first is crucial. It can go a very long way in ensuring you walk that fine line between compiling data and protecting someone’s sense of security. 

The Bottom Line and Higher Purpose 

Probably the most important fact to note about data-driven marketing is this: how you use the data will often be more important than how you’ve gathered it. Paradoxically, yes. 

If you smartly utilize the data you have at your disposal, harnessing it to suggest highly relevant offers and items, no user is ever likely to question how you’ve come across their data. That’s especially if your suggestion results in a conversion. But even if a user doesn’t choose to convert for the time being, they’ll appreciate the information.

However, if you are spammy and annoying, if you use your data in superfluous and irritating ways, you’ll likely find your users starting to ask questions about data collection and storage. And they’ll surely choose to opt out of your processes rather than keep receiving your marketing messages. 

To Sum It All Up 

Data security, cyber crime prevention, Digital information protection. Lock icons and server room background.


The key to the balance between data collection and user privacy is transparency. The more you tell your users about your processes and purposes, the more they are likely to agree to them. 

The other all-important aspect you should always bear in mind is that security is your top priority, especially when dealing with data that’s not your own. 

Use the data you gather about your customers well, keep them in the loop, and ride the personalization train to success.