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How-Tu Tuesday: Respecting Consumer Privacy

Picture for Rene Looper Rene Looper

March 16th 2016

Privacy is now considered the number one concern of internet users across the world and this fear is only set to intensify with the ever increasing volume of data collection tools that are being implemented by marketers. The debate over data security has been in the spotlight recently as Apple fights the FBI on giving the US government access to personal data. Internet giants including Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook have all shown their support to Apple and stressed the importance of encryption and stopping government overreach.

However, this story is only one example of how brands and government bodies alike are becoming more sophisticated in the software they use to analyse the behaviours of anyone browsing, leaving consumers mostly unaware of the information that is being gleaned from them. To make matters worse, brands are often very coy about privacy issues and how they use this information, which is potentially being shared with other brands and services (eg have you ever received an email from a company you don’t remember subscribing to?). This lack of transparency can be detrimental to the customer relationship and severely harm the overall reputation of a company.

It may be an important goal of marketers to obtain data in order to enhance the brand’s ability to connect their business to the target market and better understand the needs and behaviours of their customers; however, more often than not marketers and other business leaders can become too focused on digging deeper and discovering more (personal) information about their customers, leading them to neglect the concerns of the people who buy their products or services and sometimes even ignore the laws on privacy and online security. Respecting consumer privacy should be considered business etiquette across all industries and kept in high regard when it comes to setting company targets and goals. Marketers, IT specialists, entrepreneurs and founders – take note of the following ways in which brands can restore and build trust between themselves and the customer with their attitude to data privacy…

1. Be Transparent

This is the most important goal to achieve when dealing with consumers’ data. We all know how valuable the data is, but companies should not be greedy and sly in their approach to obtaining it. Be as clear and honest as you can with your community about the information you are extracting from them: What will it be used for? And who will it be used by? 

2. Always Ask Permission

This may sound a little obvious, but many brands seem to conveniently forget this crucial step or are very strategic about the way they ask for permission for recording the customer’s data. We have all experienced the “small print” and accepted T&Cs without fully reading or understanding what it all means; companies think it’s safe to assume that the average customer is not going to call a lawyer or data expert every time they want to purchase or sign up to something. Brands should make it easy for customers to fully understand what they are accepting – keep the language simple, concise and in BIG writing.

3. Only Take What You Need

The analogy of people’s eyes being bigger than their stomachs is the perfect way to describe brands’ relationship with data. They may not fully comprehend what data they are actually collecting, but will collect it anyway. Brands do this even if they are unsure of its use or benefit to the company, automatically believing that the more data they have, the better it will be for their business. However, when it comes to accessing online data, the exact opposite can often be true in that if you only gather the data you truly need for bettering your marketing efforts, then you avoid the risk of tarnishing your image and reputation, thus maintaining a healthy and trustworthy relationship with your customers. Once marketers can fully analyse where they need to expand or reduce the level of data being extracted, brands are in a much better position to judge the situation and clearly understand the data’s use and benefits.

4. Create the Right Impression

Whilst it may be important for your company to gather consumer data, it doesn’t mean you have to hide this. Explain to your customers the importance and necessity of doing it and they will be much more likely to be happy with sharing it. One of the most effective ways to do this is via your social channels as it allows for the biggest reach and is most visible to not only those following you but also the wider community who may be customers of your competitors and see your posts being retweeted and commented on. Once they are aware of your open and honest approach to data security and your respect for consumer privacy, you will go up in their estimations, and potentially be converted to a paying customer and fan.

A number of ways to get your message across via channels such as Twitter and Facebook is to share snippets of your policy on data protection and links to articles on the subject, explaining through infographics what the data is used for and sharing posts from the government and other organisations’ (not the FBI) who speak on the matter.

5. Employee Knowledge

Surround yourself with experts on the subject. Depending on the size of your company, you may be able to employ a team or a single person who is educated on data collection and online security, or you could outsource it and gain valuable advice from an IT specialist or lawyer who specialises in data privacy. Cyber security can be a daunting subject to fully understand and apply to your business, so it is important you source advice from those who can offer the best solutions that will please both your marketer and more importantly, your customer.

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