Digital Marketing Protecting Customer Privacy

Digital Marketing & Protecting Customer Privacy

The balance between the data needed to market effectively and the consumer’s right to privacy is a delicate one. If you can imagine digital marketing as an ecosystem, the three main life forms within this ecosystem would be brands, marketers, and consumers. As such, survival depends on a favorable environment for all three, something called homeostasis, in scientific terms. Homeostasis ensures that everyone can thrive and multiply.

Most brands collect data about their users through their website or mobile app. The data is either submitted by the user or automatically collected through the use of cookies and other technologies. As more and more brands want a piece of the digital advertising pie, this data has become more critical than ever in order to create marketing content that is narrowly targeted.

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A few decades ago, no one would know that while you were in a department store you spent fifteen minutes in the small appliance section, then changed your mind about the socks in your cart and put them back. The store manager wouldn’t know where you came from or how long you spent in the store.

Now, brands can see where you came from, what pages you clicked on, how much time you spent there, and what you ultimately bought or put back.

Data privacy is a relatively new topic in digital marketing, but one that is growing in importance. Data breaches and misuse of information has brought consumer protection and proper stewardship to the forefront: those who disregard consumer opinion or mismanage information are now open to both reputation damage and financial consequences.

Defining Consumer Privacy & Security

Many people in the industry and in the general public confuse the two related concepts of privacy and security. Consumer privacy is about people’s right to control how their information is shared with others in digital channels. Security is more of a technological function and focuses on the safety of the information collected. Security is integral to managing and safeguarding the information given from outside parties who might illegally access it.

The Rise of Data-Driven Marketing

Data-driven marketing is important for all effective customer experience initiatives. One of the most effective means of acquiring customers is through personalized marketing. Personalization uses customer information to disseminate offers for services or products that are specific to that user’s individual needs. Global multi-channel business communications and marketing solutions firm RRD defines personalization as “one-to-one marketing in the truest sense – one brand speaking directly to one customer.”

Personalized marketing has shown exceptional success because it works for everyone in the ecosystem. Consumers like being presented with offers relevant to their lives. They don’t want to be thought of as a number. In addition, offers that are targeted to them add convenience. In exchange, marketers and brands prosper.

Here are a few important statistics illustrating the success of personalization:


79% of consumers are likely to act on an offer only if it has been personalized to reflect their past interactions with the brand. (Marketo)
88% of marketers in the U.S. saw measurable improvements because of personalization, and more than half of those report an increase in revenue of more than 10%. (Evergage)
55% of consumers felt that a more enjoyable email experience would include retailers offering more targeted promotions and discounts. (Dynamic Yield)

The Consumer Point of View

The statistics and information above point toward consumer acceptance of, and even desire for, collecting personal data that can provide a more enjoyable and convenient experience. At the same time, consumers do worry about the security of the information collected. 

A 2018 poll by cybersecurity services firm, Semantec reported that 83% of internet users worldwide were concerned about their privacy and want accountability. And there is a growing percentage of consumers who have taken steps to at least limit data collection by deleting cookies, opting out, and creating emails used only for shopping so they can separate personal and professional personas. However, it seems that although consumers express some concern, 61% are still willing to accept certain risks for added convenience.

Clearly personalization serves a desired purpose all three inhabitants of the ecosystem. Personalization enriches customer experience, provides advertisers with an effective way to break through the marketing clutter, and provides brands with greater revenues. Yet collecting and using data makes customers vulnerable and puts the brand at risk of losing customer trust, or worse- being held liable financially.

Increasing Consumer Trust

It would be wise for brands and marketers to not solely consider customer experience in terms of their marketing tactics or ease of web use. Safety and reliability are also vital for building the customer trust needed for long-term success. Advocating for privacy is a strategic opportunity for brands and marketers. Make data privacy one of your brand’s core values.

Advocating for privacy is a plus for brands and marketers that can spin privacy into long-term trust and brand value instead of aiming for short-term leads. Your customers are definitely thinking about privacy when they are visiting your website or using the mobile app. Make privacy one of your brand’s values by demonstrating that their privacy is important to you too.

Ten Tips For Better Data Stewardship

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  1. Get to know privacy regulations. Many countries have enacted privacy laws that regulate how information is collected, how people are informed, and to what extent people have control over their information. Two recently enacted laws, the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) are ones that companies large and small must comply with. Over a dozen other U.S. states have laws in the works similar to CCPA that will be enacted within short order.

  2. Conduct a privacy audit. It’s hard to take any action before you understand what data your brand needs, what data is being collected, and how it is being stored and secured.

  3. Minimize your data collection and retention. Collect and store only the data you need to deliver your product and service. Holding onto unnecessary data because you might need it in the future only increases risk.

  4. Secure the data you keep. It is costly and damaging to a brand’s reputation when compromised by a data breach. Make sure all networks, databases, and web assets are secure.

  5. Post a non-boilerplate privacy policy. This is required by law and is a legally binding document between you and your customers. Make sure the policy is tailored accurately to your company and is not just a boilerplate policy. Two good tools to turn toward for help are PrivacyChoice and TRUSTe’s Privacy Policy Generator.

  6. Communicate with customers at other touchpoints. More often than not, customers are clicking to agree with the policies that they’ve not read. If a policy has changed, let your customers know. Add a brief statement when asking customers to provide information.

  7. Always give customers a choice. Ask for consent directly from your customers and provide ready access to settings and features that allow them to set restrictions.

  8. Provide a process for complaints. Create an online form or supply an email address so customers can communicate their issues and concerns. And, always respond to communications in a timely manner.

  9. Consider hiring a privacy compliance expert. It’s one thing as a marketer to know how to implement cookies, opt-ins, and data storage. Most sizeable companies have staff that can easily set these things up on a website. However, compliance is more complicated and can require a skillset outside of routine marketing.

  10. Develop a transparent environment. There are two types of communications that display transparency: the content that is legally required and the content that develops trust with users.

Embracing Data Privacy

Data privacy and protection is a hot topic in 2020. Protecting consumer data should be as important as protecting a company’s patents and trade secrets, and involves much more than defending your web assets from hackers. 

Respecting, safeguarding, and promoting data privacy needs to become ingrained into digital marketing strategies, practices, and process because it is definitely here to stay. Privacy regulations will continue to grow and evolve as the technology for collecting and using data continues to grow.

Recent Accenture research revealed that 80% of consumers between the ages of 20 and 40 in the United States and the United Kingdom believe privacy is a thing of the past. If this is the case, there is much to be gained by marketers and brands that can use and promote their value of good data stewardship.

The bottom line is that great content is the engine that compels users to provide data. If brands can earn data with relevant and impactful content and then keep customers because they trust the brand to secure that data, great long-term relationships between the two can flourish. It’s a win-win.

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