With recent concerns coming to light about data privacy and social media, it’s more important than ever to be transparent about your company’s privacy protection for customers. Many consumers are wary of clicking online ads because they are worried about whether their privacy is being protected. Moreover, data privacy concerns are guiding a lot of marketing practices, as they should.
Although several years old, Riva Richmond’s article “A Seven-Step Guide to Protecting Customer Privacy” rightly points out that customer privacy isn’t just an issue for large companies. She writes: “Many small companies have lost customer trust or even been sued over privacy mishaps in recent years. And they’re likely to face more problems as digital data files grow in size and importance to modern business.”
Why worry about consumer data privacy?
For one, identity theft is a real threat. But that’s not the only reason individuals may worry about their privacy. Tony Bradly learned of other concerns regarding data privacy and reported on them earlier this year in his Forbes article, “Top 5 Concerns To Focus On For Data Privacy day.” In the article, he notes five things that businesses should be concerned with. Here they are:
- 52% of users aren’t sure how to secure connected devices and apps.
- More than 40% of users don’t immediately change default passwords.
- One third of users don’t think they can control how companies collect personal information.
- 33% of parents admit they don’t know the risks well enough to explain to children.
- Only 37% of users use credit monitoring services.
What this means for companies is that many of their users don’t understand how to protect their data. With the ever-growing Internet of things, there are more opportunities for hackers to gain access to consumer data.
What can be done about data privacy within your company?
The first step to understanding the best means for protecting customer privacy, and taking steps to protecting it within your campaigns, is to conduct an audit of data privacy at your company. Where could things go wrong? How is your data being secured and stored? Is there a way that it could suddenly become insecure?
You won’t know where your company is vulnerable until you conduct such an audit. Richmond writes, “Businesses sometimes collect more data than they realize because they’ve used third-party software code that does so automatically or because a partner, such as an advertising network or analytics company, is pulling data.”
Once you know where your company stands on privacy, determine how you can secure data.
Once you’ve seen where your company’s privacy issues may lie, then it’s time to do something about it. Control how much data you collect and be sure that any data you collect is secure. Avi Goldfarb and Catherine Tucker point out that managing consumer privacy properly can be an opportunity rather than a cost in “Why Managing Consumer Privacy Can Be an Opportunity.”
Goldfarb and Tucker suggest that to use the opportunity wisely, companies do well to, “1. Develop user-centric privacy controls to give customers control. 2. Avoid multiple intrusions. And 3. Prevent human intrusion by using automation whenever possible.”
In other words, by ensuring that consumer data is secure, and putting privacy controls in consumer rather than company hands, businesses can gain a leg up on their competition. This gives them a distinct advantage against companies that have become known for privacy breaches.
Whether “securing data” means ending the use of third party software, collecting less data, or ensuring that all data has been encrypted, it’s important for companies to go the extra mile to be sure that the consumer information that they do collect is safe.
Data privacy can be a marketing point.
When you go the extra mile to ensure that your customer’s data – from geo-spatial data picked up from location-based marketing efforts to credit card information, from birthdays to order history – you’re showing your customer base that you’re focused on them. This is an excellent “in” with your target market in an era where company after company seems to be on trial for privacy compliance.
Many marketing teams are picking up more and more on big data, and there’s a lot to balance when it comes to customer privacy and collecting such data to become more effective at marketing. While you are certainly using the information gathered through your various inboxes to help shave off the costs of marketing and better market your services to a specific, target buyer persona, such data can be a problem in the hands of people who do not mean well.
Be honest about what information you collect and what you do with the data you collect
It’s important to be upfront about why you are collecting data and what that data means to your company. If you collect birthdays, tell customers why. If you collect email and names for a newsletter, tell your customers that. If you track where your customers go when they leave your site so you can do a better job of keeping them engaged on your site, tell them that too.
Give customers an out.
Provide visitors to your business, whether it be online or in person a way to opt out from your data collection process. By allowing customers to choose not to share information with you, you can better appeal to those who are wary of privacy concerns. You also show that, except for necessary information (shipping and billing information), you care about your customers’ right to their own privacy.
Make sure customers know where you stand on protecting their information.
Through ensuring that customers understand that you are doing everything in your power to ensure their data stays safe, you’re going a long way toward promoting your business in a good light. While many consumers don’t thoroughly understand the depth of privacy issues, they are very concerned about maintaining privacy and security of their digital information. Consider a blog post or two explaining your company’s privacy policies in terms that consumers understand – particularly if your company happens to collect a lot of data.
By making the extra efforts when it comes to privacy, you can eke out your own niche among competitors.