Trust is earned in drips and lost in buckets. While every brand wants to build online relationships, putting consumers in control of their privacy is a must for brands today.
As usual, there’s a lot going on in the world of consumer privacy and security. Data breaches reported by the likes of Yahoo, LinkedIn and others illustrate the need for consumers to be better educated and more vigilant when it comes to securing their personal information. With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) – which contributes to the interconnectivity of everything – these issues won’t be on the wane anytime soon. Indeed, it seems that privacy and security are perpetually top of mind for consumers and brands alike.
The privacy campaigning group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, released its annual ‘Who Has Your Back’ privacy report, and found Amazon and WhatsApp can and should improve their policies. For example, they didn’t even register scores for the criteria ‘promises not to sell out users’, ‘tells users about government data requests’ and ‘stands up to national security letter (NSL) gag orders’. This is a worrying prospect for consumers who use these popular companies on a frequent basis. Examples like this do nothing to gain and keep consumer trust.
As consumers demand a more personalised shopping experience online, the obvious lack of trust is a worry for brands who rely on customer insight to tailor their services. It’s an even steeper uphill battle that brands face to offer personalised services online, if consumers don’t trust brands to respect their privacy and keep their data secure, they won’t be inclined to share information about themselves. A recent Gigya survey found that 68 per cent of consumers don’t trust brands to handle their personal information appropriately. UK consumers are concerned about how brands use their personal information, such as their name, email, location, and marital status. This, in turn, prevents brands from developing deeper relationships and meeting the consumer demand for personalised experiences.
The same proportion (66%) worry their personal data security could be compromised by the latest data-hungry gadgets, including smart watches, fitness trackers, and home devices such as Amazon’s Echo. With millions of online accounts being hacked, an increasing number of connected devices tracking our behaviour, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) less than a year away, brands urgently need to restore public confidence or face fines as high as four per cent of annual turnover, and risk losing out on sales.
Marketers have been quick to embrace the web, social media and smart devices to engage with consumers on a level that has completely transformed brand relationships. These relationships now rely on the unprecedented free-flow of increasingly sensitive customer data, in exchange for convenience, better recommendations, or access to that data across all of our devices.
Re-connect or face extinction
Marketers face a seismic shift in the way they collect and manage data because GDPR will keep brands honest by forcing an ‘opt-in’ policy on consumer data for the first time and radically change the way that personally identifiable information is defined. The challenge intensifies because GDPR will enforce an opt-out policy for consumers, giving them the right to deny brands access to data.
Brands must become forthright by habit in explaining how they handle and protect customers’ information. Facebook, for example, has demonstrated that putting consumer privacy top of mind can engender a great deal of trust, and brands stand to gain tremendously.
Facebook employs a transparent approach to privacy that empowers consumers to control how much personal information they share and with whom. Since implementing this transparent approach approximately two years ago, Facebook has added 467 million new users and the company market capitalisation has grown 167 per cent to about $400 billion today. Facebook’s proactive approach to privacy has clearly been an advantage not only to its business but also to consumers, who have a clearer understanding of how their data is used on the social network.
Brands that provide the customer with ways to view, edit and delete the data collected and used, gives consumers both control and a more positive customer experience. In addition, deploying platforms that will strengthen security around consumer data and help protect consumers from their own poor password practices can also boost confidence. While hacking and breaches may always be part and parcel of the digital age, a partnership between brands and consumers can also have a significant positive impact.
It is important brands don’t think they’re off the hook just because the public increasingly recognises its own role in keeping data private and secure. Yes, as consumers, we must be aware of the risks, and take precautions, but as technology evolves, and regulation tightens, brands must take the issues of data security firmly in hand, understanding the value of trusted relationships.
It’s not too late for brands to put consumers in control of their privacy, but it is important to act now and overcome the personalisation-privacy disconnect.