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Privacy or Personalization? Online Shoppers Want Both, Episerver Says

Online shoppers seem to be split between their desire for both more privacy and more personalization.

Of the 4,000 consumers surveyed in Episerver’s Reimagining Commerce 2020 research report, 53 percent want brands to place a higher priority on respecting online anonymity while another 61 percent believe businesses should prioritize personalization as much this year as they did in 2019.

“Companies are facing a digital experience paradox,” CEO of Episerver Alex Atzberger said in a statement. “Digital is a necessity to compete, but it’s getting more difficult and expensive to compete on digital alone as the golden standard for digital experience isn’t right for every company and customer, and yet the requirements keep increasing.”

The benefits of personalization are becoming more obvious despite this dichotomy, Episerver said. When companies use customer data to retarget prospects with ads, for instance, both retailers and customers can benefit.

Of those surveyed, 25 percent said they had returned to a website to purchase a product they had simply forgotten to buy on the first visit after being exposed to a retargeting ad.

Yet in each of the five countries Episerver surveyed—Australia, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States—consumers are also in the mood for more online security and anonymity. This has had the effect of limiting growth in channels that may be seen as less secure, like voice commerce, the digital marketing and software company said.

Voice-activated shopping seemed to be the next wave of frictionless retail, but Episerver’s data shows that has not been the case. In fact, voice commerce has decreased year-over-year since 2019. That year, 22 percent of consumers surveyed said they used voice to research a product or service multiple times per month. In 2020, just 8 percent of consumers agreed with that statement. On top of that, just 7 percent said they had used voice to make a product purchase in the new recent report, dropping from 17 percent from the prior year.

“Declining voice commerce could be attributed to the reality that these devices are simply better-suited for other tasks, like listening to music, making calls or managing shopping lists, but there’s also a privacy component,” the report said.

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Consumers are simply not convinced enough consideration is being put into security when it comes to voice devices. One third responded that a “lack of security features” in Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices keeps them from making more purchases.

This doesn’t mean brands and retailers should give up on new revenue channels. Episerver pointed to the rise shopping via mobile device as a reason to be optimistic that technologies like voice shopping will eventually catch on. In the 2020 report, 48 percent of consumers said they have “significantly increased their reliance on smartphone shopping” over the past year.

“We’ve been sold on experience, but hindsight is 20/20,” Atzberger said. “Understanding what customers want, giving them control over how and where their data is used, and leading them to the next best content and action is how retailers ultimately solve for these contradictions.”