Marketers always look for new ways to serve their customers and communities, and 2020 brought more occasions than usual. The quick transition to digital customer experiences as a result of the pandemic allowed companies to test plenty of fresh ideas to address their audiences.

The tone of customer communications also changed. The events of 2020, combined with the move to digital interaction, led marketers to decrease the use of industry jargon and messaging that customers may perceive as less than authentic communication.

The focus moved toward personalized, succinct, and transparent messaging to help create long-lasting customer relationships built on trust.

COVID has taught marketers the value of straight talk and consumers' appreciation of value-based messaging, according to a recent global study of marketers and consumers. People are faced with a barrage of messaging from a variety of sources, leading to shortened attention spans and weariness with generic terms such as "the new normal." Customers are also ready to move on from messages that highlight pandemic circumstances, another report revealed—likely because they have learned to navigate the situation and are ready to embrace an adjusted "business as usual" lifestyle.

Companies are therefore faced with the tricky task of identifying messages that strike the appropriate balance.

That consumer and marketer study moreover illustrates that there is a gap between marketers' perception of trust and consumers' reality: Three-quarters of marketers said customers trust their organization's use of personal data in 2020 more than they did in 2019; however, just over half (52%) of consumers said they are comfortable with giving companies their personal data in exchange for a better experience.

Personalized content is not a new approach, but when implemented wisely, it can help marketers move from using trust-reducing communications to developing communications that both align with a brand's voice and respect a customer's personal considerations.

Here are some tips on how to overcome trust barriers while still getting personal with customers.

1. Create an opt-in culture to nurture customer trust

In the past few years, awareness of privacy and data brokers has increased. In many cases, a company's customers are not comfortable with how easily their data is compiled and sold.

Around half of people find it unsettling when a brand knows something about them that they didn't disclose directly, Acquia's 2019 research indicates. The same research finds that 65% of consumers would no longer engage with a brand if they were to discover their data is being used dishonestly.

Companies can address that problem by moving to an opt-in model, which often results in higher-quality data. When customers trust your business with their identity and preferences, they might be willing to provide more accurate information. More accurate data helps brands build better customer profiles and more precise segmentation, which in turn leads to better personalization.

2. Use data to create more human experiences

Marketers need to remember that there is a human behind every click of the keyboard. People have never been more wary of the messages they are receiving from companies. More than half of consumers in Acquia's 2019 study agreed that businesses are behind the times in how they interact with customers, both online and offline.

Companies should use personalized data as an opportunity to be more human with their customers. Personalization can steer human interactions and make customers feel that they are understood.

With the right tools, companies can develop cross-channel experiences that leave customers feeling satisfied with their interactions.

3. Don't rush

Just as you wouldn't ask for your partner's credit score or propose marriage on the first date, marketers shouldn't ask too much of customers up front. It is rare for customers to share in-depth personal information at the start of a relationship.

Once data is collected, some marketers want to act on their findings immediately, but a methodical process could be more valuable. By using a gradual approach, marketers can refine their communication as interactions progress, and they can also provide customers with more sophisticated and insightful messaging.

4. Think small

The pandemic has forced many companies to pivot to digital-first operations and look at their customer base in a whole new way. Audiences are worn out from too much information during an unstable time; sending out short, easy-to-navigate, consumable pieces of content is how to get their attention.

Also, because marketers face shrinking budgets, smaller campaigns can mitigate the risk of spending too much on sweeping marketing initiatives. With the right foundation of data, marketers can create micro-experiences for consumers that feel very personal, yet still drive conversions.

* * *

COVID has caused marketers to realize something they should have known and put in action all along: Authenticity and a personal touch in their communications are the best way to build trust, loyalty, and long-term relationships with customers.

Embrace personalization and authentic communication to create better customer experiences in 2021.

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Earn Your Customers' Trust: How to Use Personalization and Authenticity to Reach Audiences

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image of Lynne Capozzi

Lynne Capozzi is chief marketing officer at Acquia, the open digital experience company. It provides brands with technology that allows them to embrace innovation and create customer moments that matter.

Linkedin: Lynne Capozzi

Twitter: @lcapozzi