All brands are encouraged to connect with their customers on a deeper level. But, as you strive to keep "touching" your customers, you should also ask yourself: "Is my brand being creepy?"

According to the 2018 CX Trends Report from InMoment, it might be.

That study queried 2,000 customers and 1,000 brands about various customer experience topics to ascertain where companies and their clients are diverging when it comes to customer experience.

The No. 1 trend was: "Personalization can get too personal." Defining "creepy" as brands "causing an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease," the survey noted that 75 percent of respondents said they find most forms of personalization that brands use to be at least somewhat creepy.

Furthermore, 40 percent of brands admitted they knew they were being creepy with people's personal information, including tracking what they buy, places they visit online, places they shop in person and other such info.

What is creeping people out?

The published findings from the survey included anecdotal evidence about creepy behavior displayed by brands:

  • "When I have been shopping online and a product I was looking at appears publicly on an unrelated page some time later ... This makes me feel like I'm being watched and could also cause trouble if I was shopping for gifts for my family and the gifts appear on my screen at random times!"

  • "I do not like giving out my phone number or address to buy a product, especially at a store that I do not shop at often. I was not able to buy a product without providing them my phone number ... I did not like this as I did not see how my telephone number was relevant to buying chicken and pizza."

  • "I didn't like being emailed about a product I had left in a cart on a website, or emailed about products I have recently searched. Also, I do not like targeted ads on websites. It feels like I'm being stalked."

  • "I had an ex-boyfriend that lived beside a restaurant. I would sometimes take pictures of his cat. Google would immediately suggest that I upload those pictures to Google and review my experience at that restaurant."

  • "[The brand] wanted me to enable/install app to get a great in-store experience, but of course it ALSO asked for permissions to [access] my contacts, location, emails, etc. NO WAY."

People seemed to be most unnerved when the online creepiness bled into the physical world, like in the above example where Google pesters a person to upload photos and leave a review because they happen to be near a restaurant.

They are also incredibly wary of brands that ask for too much information, such as a phone number and email and the aforementioned apps that theoretically should work perfectly fine without having access to things like your contacts.

Results of the creepiness

The good news for brands who like to "touch" their customers a lot is that 49 percent of consumers won't actually do anything after being creeped out.

However:

  • 22 percent said they would look for a different brand.

  • 21 percent said they would stop using the brand that creeped them out.

  • 21 percent said they would tell their friends about their creepy brand experience.

  • 9 percent said they would post negative comments on social media about the creepy experience.

I've felt all of these things as a customer and I'm sure you have, too. In this day of trying to collect as many "touch points" as possible, brands can come off a little too touchy-feely.

I do a lot of online research and recreational reading online. When I'm done with my research, I just want to close the browser tab and go visit another website where I can read something frivolous. But, there's the thing I was researching, trying to get my attention even though "research time" is over and this is "relaxation time."

Now,I do have to admit that my companies are probably just as guilty of some creepiness, as we do use retargeting ads on a regular basis.

What you can do

Put yourself in your customers' shoes.

  • Do you like it when you perform research on a product or service and then have to see the same ads following you around online?

  • Do you enjoy it when you download an app that should work with limited access to your phone only to find out it requires access to your phone's entire contents?

  • Do you like that "Big Brother" feeling of being watched by companies?

If the answer to any of these questions is "no," then you should probably conduct a little survey of your own and find out what your customers are comfortable with and take heed of what they say.

Published on: Feb 27, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.