Imagine sitting at your desk years from now and looking back at 2020. Putting pandemics and politics aside, you’ll probably see 2020 as the year when data security became a big concern for businesses. Really big, in fact.
Where high-publicity scandals over the past few years have made data security more mainstream, fixes to the problem have been at the low simmer of slow-moving regulations and even slower industry adoption. Then came 2020.
So, what does this increase in privacy awareness mean for businesses and marketers, who are itching to use technologies that wow consumers and help their brand stay relevant? Unless we change how we collect and use customer information, 2020 may be the year data privacy issues finally boil over.
Setting the Stage for Privacy
While the wild-west days of data collection may be gone, only a handful of truly effective laws protecting consumer data privacy exist worldwide. If you’re doing business in Europe, you already know about the General Data Protection Act (GDPR). But in the US, the strongest protection for consumers is the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). And as if it needed to be said, it’s only for California.
It may be true that states are getting on board with data privacy ahead of federal legislation. The problem is that companies shouldn’t wait for regulations to take hold before adapting to what will ultimately become a nationwide solution. With big fines and bad press serving as the consequences for poor handling of customer data, businesses that wait for regulations to pass until making the move could put customers – and their own brands – at risk.
Uncovering the built-in conflict
From websites to emails to paid ads and more, people love receiving personalized content from brands. Knowing this, we as marketers are happy to deliver because it usually means a better ROI and some form of bragging rights.
But these experiences are created using data from the same customers who clutch their collective pearls at the thought of having their information stolen, misused, or watched over carelessly.
Marketing in this sort of environment is a big challenge for businesses. A balancing act, really. Yet if the right steps are taken, brands and their customers can enjoy the best of both worlds: highly appealing marketing and a firm commitment to data protection.
Answering the Call with Transparency
People trust brands that build transparency into their business ethos, especially when it comes to user data. Below are some practical steps your business can take to make transparency core to your data and marketing strategies.
Disclose how you use information
Users already count on you to keep their information private. Disclosing how you use the information you collect goes a long way in building the trust and transparency users are seeking. By letting users know their data is solely used for above-board marketing tactics like personalized experiences, and promising to never sell it to a third-party, your business is already ahead of the curve.
Allow users to opt in and opt out
While the CCPA enables users to opt out of data collection, the GDPR takes things a step further by requiring companies to provide users with the ability to opt in with “explicit consent”. In other words, pre-checked boxes and default agreements can get EU businesses in trouble. If your email marketing doesn’t have an opt-in policy already, it’s time to adopt one. Sending emails to users who have previously opted out – or even to those who didn’t knowingly opt in – is a surefire way to erode trust.
Ask for only what you need
User data is a temptingly powerful elixir that drives businesses to acquire more personal information than they actually need. Taking a tip from the GDPR, a smarter policy is to only ask users for information that’s beneficial to their experience now and not what might be useful down the road. If things change, so can your policies. In the meantime, this is a great way to show consumers you’re worthy of their trust.
Avoid third-party cookies
With the recent announcement that Google Chrome will stop supporting third-party cookies in 2 years, the time has come to stop using them to power your brand’s campaigns. Not only is third-party data often outdated or low quality, many consumers find ads generated from this kind of data creepy and intrusive.
Though the influx of new regulation around consumer data privacy may seem overwhelming or limiting, it shouldn’t keep us from using new technologies and approaches to reach and entertain audiences. In fact, it could provide a market advantage to brands that make the leap in the absence of federal laws. By taking the lid off this high-pressure topic at your organization, you’ll invite more opportunities to win customer trust and loyalty.