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product-led growth

Gathering the right data for personalization, in a privacy-driven world

Published September 14th, 2022

It’s estimated that the chance of finding two identical snowflakes is 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. Likewise, you’re an individual in the sea of humanity. You don’t want same-same treatment, you want your interactions to be personalized and contextualized – with your likes, dislikes and habits embedded throughout applications. But collecting (and using) that type of data is becoming increasingly contentious.

Di Mace

Marketing Communications Manager at Tiny

Every brand is wrestling a paradox. People crave personalized experiences, but also want their privacy. Brands desire strong customer relationships, but when personalization gets too close, they risk violating their customers’ trust. It’s a fine line to walk.

Personalization is rooted in customer data. The usual logic that's applied by companies, is the more CRM data that’s acquired, stored and used in personalization, the more effectively you can offer perfectly timely and relevant experiences. However, personalization is a long-play game of balancing your needs and customer wants. And the rules of the game continue to change.

Research company Gartner, has defined personalization as “...a process that creates a relevant, individualized interaction between two parties designed to enhance the experience of the recipient”. But as more companies seek to gain advantages from their CRM data, concurrently our privacy protection laws are evolving – making personalization a volatile faultline.

That presents a conundrum for brands: greater sales may be on offer, as are deeper relationships, but if you cross that faultline you risk alienating those same people you’re trying to win over.

The task ahead is to wisely cultivate, manage and use the data our users and customers entrust us with, without being ‘creepy’ in your efforts.

What is personalization?

True personalization is a customer-centric approach that's utilized company-wide, not only in the traditional areas of sales, marketing and customer service. It allows you to have a presence at the right time, with the right message or action, in the right place.

Personalization works to collect personal data, then detect patterns, and discover correlations across those multiple data sources, and matching the personal attributes and behaviors that align with a brand’s goals, values, offerings or activities. By finding these opportunities, it allows a brand to:

  • Build elevated brand and customer experiences
  • Fine tune messaging and personal outreaches
  • Create personalized content, emails, quotes and proposals.

At its most effective, personalization engages people during designated ‘micro-moments’ within their customer journey. Those micro-moment touches are specially designed to lead them to the next step – be that enquiring, registering, subscribing, re-booking, having (or extending) a conversation, consuming more content, dwelling for longer on your website or taking the ultimate, final step of purchasing.

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Why personalization is important

Given the ongoing juggle of personalization vs privacy, why do companies still pursue it? Because it delivers results. Both B2C and B2B brands are increasingly using personalization to improve their customer experience, increase revenue, improve customer retention and build brand loyalty.

McKinsey’s ‘Next in Personalization 2021 Report’ noted that “Companies that grow faster drive 40 percent more of their revenue from personalization than their slower-growing counterparts. […] Players who are leaders in personalization achieve outcomes by tailoring offerings and outreach to the right individual at the right moment with the right experiences.”

The same 2021 McKinsey report also revealed that “Seventy-one percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And seventy-six percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen”, so our expectations are high.

People decide in a matter of seconds whether you’re providing something relevant. Miss the mark and they're gone. Through personalization, there’s a higher likelihood of successfully leveraging your CRM data to:

  • Design more effective messages
  • Deepen customer relationships
  • Draw brand attention and affection
  • Drive growth of both new and repeat sales

Both B2B and B2C customers expect companies to be well informed about them and their personal information during an interaction.

However they also expect their data to remain private and secure, and to be used solely for its intended purpose, with people three times more likely to abandon brands that abuse their data or over-personalize communications, versus those brands that either under (or didn’t) personalize.

What types of personalization are acceptable?

Personalization isn’t a goal in itself – it’s a way to attain performance goals. But to capture its potential benefits, it’s critical to understand how people perceive the value of personalization.

Since 2018, Gartner has tested reactions to personalized communications by exploring general attitudes to personalization, willingness to share data, the comfort level with data use, and the actions taken after receiving or encountering a personalized communication or experience.

Most companies dedicate the majority of their personalization efforts to recognition tactics, but Gartner’s research shows that ‘help’ beats ‘recognition’, with messages fundamentally perceived to be ‘helpful’ being the most impactful on the recipient. More specifically, “...messages that are both helpful but also include just a little customer data (up to three customer data dimensions) are the most effective of all.‘’

Their research has shown a ‘tailored help’ approach from brands can trigger a potential uplift of over 30% in terms of improving brand intent, purchase and repurchase. It doesn't require mountains of CRM data to execute, but it requires brands to understand their customers’ needs and deliver valuable, actionable help – that's easy to use, reassuring and rewarding.


What's the right data to collect to match privacy concerns?

With personalization efforts often going too far and edging into the ‘creepy’ zone, there's increasing anxiety around data collection and its use. Brands are struggling to find a comfortable balance between privacy and the promise of personalization, while also keeping up with growing data complexity, emerging technology and changing government regulations.

The 2022 Gartner Personalization Survey revealed a marked behavioral change amongst us, with approximately 74% of customers (both B2C and B2B) actively disabling all tracking and muting many brand communications.

On top of that, there's a changing third-party data landscape that’s making it increasingly difficult to discover details about customers and to better qualify (and quantify) buyer behaviors and preferences.

Therefore, brands should be working towards building relationships with their users where personal data is incrementally shared – so they can better understand each person’s preferences, likes, dislikes and decision-making style. In this new landscape, the key differentiator amongst brands is the creation of mutual trust, where more detailed data is ‘earned’ and through the use of that data, brands slowly convert them from customers and users, to loyal advocates.

Types of personalization data collected

Because people expect more and trust less, it’s important to understand that not all CRM data is the same. Generally speaking, each data type enriches the other, when you’re pursuing a strategy of personalization. The four terms below describe the type of data, where data comes from and how it ends up in a company’s hands.

1. First party data

First-party data is the most valuable to your business. It’s generally the highest quality, most accurate, and relevant, because it’s been directly collected by your company.

  • Collected from within your organization’s ecosystem
  • Collected via direct interactions with your audience

First-party data collection opportunities

Lead forms

Behaviors or actions taken across your website, app and/or product

Company social media profiles

Email communications

Digital Adverts

Customer Surveys

Purchase history

CRM and automation software

2. Second party data

Second-party data is data that was once first-party, and is then shared with a trusted partner. Unlike the sale of third-party data, the trade (or sharing) of second-party data is more selective and limited – so the data is likely both accurate and good quality.

It’s especially useful when combined with your first-party data, to build improved predictive models (when your dataset is too small) and for exposing your brand to an aligned market or audience.

  • Privately acquired from a trusted partner
  • Relevant because it comes from a mutually beneficial relationship or alignment
  • Collection must comply with privacy regulations – GDPR and the CCPA

3. Third party data

Third-party data is collected by aggregators from multiple sources. They clean it, make it useful, and sell it to marketers and sales teams to create better, more targeted interactions. Third-party data is useful when combined with first-party data, to help improve targeting.

  • Collected by entities or organizations other than your own
  • Collected by organizations that don't have a direct relationship with your audience
  • Collected by data processors who aggregate, organize and sell data
  • Data aggregators do not collect data directly but obtain it from other companies and compile it into a single dataset
  • Data that's publicly available

Third-party data collection opportunities

Companies that aggregate, process, and resell data from multiple sources

Companies that sell data they collect on their own sites, typically of a certain specialty

Public data aggregators and publishers

4. Zero party

Zero-party data is relatively new and not widely accepted, mainly because it’s confusingly similar to first-party data.

Coined by Forrester Research, zero-party data is defined as “data that a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand, which can include preference center data, purchase intentions, personal context, and how the individual wants the brand to recognize her.”

5. Four types of data

First-party dataSecond-party dataThird-party dataZero-party data
Direct relationshipIndirect relationshipIndirect relationshipDirect relationship
Collected with consentCollected with consentUnknown if collected with consentCollected with consent
Individual dataIndividual dataAggregate dataIndividual data
High accuracy and reliabilityHigh accuracy and reliabilityLow accuracy and reliabilityHigh accuracy and reliability
Not sharedShared only with trusted partnersShared with many companiesNot shared
Example data:
* Customer email
* Phone number
* Purchase history
* Customer grading/scoring
* Support history
* Loyalty program information
* Customer feedback
(Also refer 2nd-party)
Example data:
* Website activity
* Social media profiles
* Customer feedback
* Customer surveys
(Also refer 1st-party)
Example data:
* Income
* Age
* Education
* Websites visited
* Social media activity
* Survey response
Example data:
* Communication preferences
* Product preferences
* Customer account configurations


What a cookieless future means for personalization

Cookies have long been the primary tool for tracking and collecting customer data on the internet. They’re the tiny bits of data and personal identifiers that are collected and exchanged between platforms, when users click a link or go to a page, anywhere on the web.

They help brands better understand the profile of people who visit their website and to improve their browsing experience.

But a ‘cookieless future’ isn’t far away. According to Think with Google, global searches for ‘online privacy’ grew 50% in 2020 compared to the previous year. Google responded to this with (recently updated) plans to remove support for third-party cookies on their Google Chrome browser, from 2023 onwards.

Brands can therefore no longer rely on third-party cookie information and are less able to identify and target people with relevant advertising or marketing. The change is a win for user privacy, but if you're not prepared, your ad performance is about to take a dive.

The ad tech industry is scrambling to find a post- ‘cookie-pocalypse’ approach that instead places user privacy at the heart of data and targeting strategies. It’s likely that alternative identification solutions based on non-cookie identifiers (such as email addresses) will become essential components in those plans, but ultimately it’s the quality and quantity of your CRM stored first-party data that determines the efficacy of any alternatives you employ.

Maximizing your personalization efforts

Data collection is a critical component of personalization, but it must be collected efficiently, stored responsibly and used appropriately. Integrating the best CRM HTML editor components in your tech stack can help you achieve those goals. In many cases, using the best technology can also increase the engagement with and quality of the outputs from your CRM.

CRM rich text editor advantage

Certain CRM functionality, like configuring custom rich text fields, helps you achieve your ROI goals as well as maximizing your personalization efforts.

Brand goaL

Increase sales

CRM functionality that helps

Custom rich text fields supports


Writing personalized, conversion-oriented emails to prospects


Generating custom quotes and proposals

Call logging

Logging calls according to business rules

Brand goaL

Improve retention

CRM functionality that helps

Custom rich text fields supports

Knowledge base

Creating self-serve knowledge base content

Support ticket management

Enabling customers to create tickets and facilitating back-and-forth communication

Brand goaL

Accurate analytics and forecasting

CRM functionality that helps

Custom rich text fields supports


Designing and annotating reports

Brand goaL

Boost productivity and efficiency

CRM functionality that helps

Custom rich text fields supports

Records management

Entering data according to format and database requirements

Brand goaL

Streamline communications

CRM functionality that helps

Custom rich text fields supports

Social media monitoring and posting

Creating social media posts

Instant messaging (internally and externally)

Writing messages

Embeddable contact forms

Allowing prospects to enter free-form text in contact forms

Custom rich text fields within a CRM

There are certain CRM-focused customizations that can be made to an advanced rich text editor that assist it’s personalization capabilities, as well as improving:

  • User interface (UI)
  • Content formatting
  • Personalization
  • Productivity

1. Streamline the UI

Why do you need to streamline the editor’s UI? CRMs are usually very busy software, often with 5-10 panes of descriptive information or enabling the user to take action on a single record. Therefore, it’s critical that your rich text fields maintain a minimal visual footprint, while still enabling users to perform advanced editing functions. A WYSIWYG editor creates an experience that’s loved by users – with many reporting 85% increases in engagement and readability.

2. Enforce strict formatting

Why do you need to enforce strict formatting in your CRM rich text fields? According to pre-pandemic research done by Sirius Decisions (now Forrester Research), between 10% and 25% of B2B customer and prospect records include critical data errors that cause 40% of business objectives to fail. Then there’s the estimated cost of a bad CRM record – it’s upwards of $100 per record. Do you need any more reasons to lock down your formatting?

3. Personalization and privacy

What are the benefits of personalizing your CRM outreaches? Adweek reports that personalization can reduce customer acquisition costs by up to to 50% and increase marketing spend efficiency by up to 30%. In the area of emails, Campaign Monitor found that emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened, while personalized and segmented campaigns show a 760% increase in email revenue!

Merge tag dropdowns within a rich text editor can help to maintain data quality and ensure any privacy concerns are locked down. These can be configured to limit the choice of fields, so only certain types of data can be selected for use: first-, second-, third- or zero-party data.

4. Maximize productivity

How can your CRM rich text editor improve productivity? Brands utilize CRMs to achieve massive productivity gains. According to Salesforce, using a CRM can increase productivity by up to 34% and sales by up to 29%. Upgrading the editor component within your CRM to one with a WYSIWYG experience, can reduce content creation time by 90%. Over a year, your users could save thousands of hours in their workflow.

Using an advanced WYSIWYG editor component that provides comprehensive documentation and customizability allows developers to mold rich text editor components into a CRM solution that perfectly fits their needs. They’ve been known to save up to six months' of development time for each new feature scoped.

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Using your CRM for personalization in a private world

Soon, first-party data and privacy will reign supreme. Ironically though, in a world where people’s behaviors are more digital-centric than ever, understanding them throughout their digital journeys is getting increasingly difficult.

In truth, each person and company has different needs and wants, and is in a different stage of their buying process. To successfully personalize your efforts, you need to intentionally leverage your customer relationship management system towards activities that feel human, yet private.

Done right, personalization delivers messages that are tuned into and even anticipatory of what’s really wanted. But finding the exact right moment is never easy.


Di Mace

Marketing Communications Manager

Messaging strategist and copywriter whose passion lies in working with brands like Tiny, that have deep-seated values and embrace the power of their story. She gets a kick out of solving problems, loves learning new things and making stuff, every day. When she’s not thinking through clever copy lines or clarifying value propositions, she’s knitting amazing socks for everyone she knows.

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