Let’s discuss one of today’s biggest issues in the marketing industry: customer privacy. Data collection is a tense topic for both consumers and marketers. When it comes to deciding on a happy medium for both parties, one group is often prioritized over the other. Marketers need data but consumers also need privacy.
Why Privacy Matters.
In order to take part in a product or service, most customers need to feel like they are safe and protected. If there are risks of unwanted data leaking, then the customers will simply not give the company their business. We’ve all heard it, the concerned consumer announcing that a certain company is stealing everyone’s data. If a customer feels like they can trust in the company, then they have no reason to fret. The idea of a consumer’s level of happiness corresponding with their willingness to disclose information is discussed in “The Personalization–Privacy Paradox at the Nexus of Social Exchange and Construal Level Theories” by Julien Cloarec, Lars Meyer-Waarden, and Andreas Munzel. The idea is explored that a customer takes part in a cost-benefit tradeoff when they hand over their information. The cost being the risk of having their information known and the benefit being the personalization that the business gives in return. So, we want the customers to have more of the benefit than the cost. In order to ensure consumers that they should provide information, companies must make it clear that there are safety precautions, and that privacy is ensured. Transparency such as this would allow consumers to share data without the worry or the tradeoff.
What the Future Holds.
There are fears that businesses will continue to grow and take information and soon Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take over. While some consumers are getting more wary of their privacy with the recent release of the movie, The Great Hack in 2019, causing people to think more skeptically, there also appears to be a group of consumers who are not very concerned at all. A survey I conducted titled “Survey for Marketing Research” gained 65 respondents predominantly of ages 15-23. When prompted, “Do you read privacy policies if an app, website, device etc. displays the notice on your screen?” 53.8% of respondents answered, “I click past it” instead of “I skim it” or “I read it thoroughly”. This brings the conclusion that a majority of consumers, particularly those on the younger end, are likely to pay little to no attention to privacy notices. However, this does not mean that privacy notices should be phased out altogether because when shown an example of a privacy notice and asked how they would respond, the surveyees provided a 59.4% response rate of “'I’m glad the website/app/company made me aware of this policy'' with a lesser percentage of 40.6% responding with the response of “This is so annoying”. Therefore, many consumers still value their privacy rights and want to visually see that their data is protected.
What You Can do About It.
Reassurance is key. Make your customers well aware of when, why, and how their data is going to be collected. Let the customer know how supplying your business with their data will help them in the long run. Furthermore, assure the customer that their data will not be shared anywhere else. If your business is collecting sensitive information such as health profiles, invest in a secure software that will discourage hackers and leaks.
Do your research. Know your limits and the law by keeping yourself updated on current privacy rights. Marketers have a responsibility to both be fair to consumers while collecting the necessary data to personalize the customer experience. Visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website to further educate yourself on privacy. The FTC has a section specifically for small businesses as well.
Cloarec, J., Meyer-Waarden, L., & Munzel, A. (2022). The personalization–privacy paradox at the nexus of social exchange and construal level theories. Psychology & Marketing, 39(3),