Cory is the Chief Operating Officer at BlueConic, a leading customer data platform.
Globally, privacy and data protection legislation is flourishing. Over 120 countries now have national privacy laws in place. In the United States, new state bills—like a recent one in Connecticut—are regularly appearing, while calls persist for a comprehensive federal law regulating how companies collect, store and share customer data.
In addition to a rapidly changing data privacy landscape, big tech companies are moving privacy to the fore. Last year, Apple introduced a pop-up window for iPhones that asks users for permission to be tracked by different apps. Google plans to disable third-party cookies in its Chrome web browser by the end of 2024, and Facebook is working on a new method of showing ads without relying on personal data.
These developments represent a profound shift in how companies use data to understand and interact with consumers. Meanwhile, consumers want control over who has access to their data and how much they’re willing to share. There’s also a rise in the number of myths and misconceptions about consumer data privacy that make it difficult to separate fact from fiction.
Myth #1: People don’t care about privacy.
Companies have always collected data about consumers. But before, there were no laws dictating what kind of data they could collect, and few consumers placed any real value on protecting their data. That’s all changing.
The 2018 scandal involving Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of personal Facebook data played a big role in educating consumers on how many companies were collecting their data. Today, 61% of consumers say they’re concerned about their online behaviors being tracked.
While willingness to share personal information and savviness about the complexity of data collection and use may vary among individuals, it’s clear data privacy truly matters to today’s consumers and must be taken seriously. For brands, that means embracing a comprehensive approach to consent management that stores consent by objective in person-level profiles and automatically federates that data to other systems to adhere to consumer privacy preferences across channels.
Myth #2: Privacy is a winners-take-all game.
Many companies think privacy is a winners-take-all game. Either they can convince someone to share all their information with them or they can’t. In reality, there is a spectrum.
Most consumers are familiar with a shopping experience where they land on a website and are immediately asked for their email, or they download an app and are asked to provide all kinds of permissions. But these types of aggressive data collection tactics are a mistake. Instead, companies should think about making these experiences more like a conversation, where consumer information is gathered over time. As more data is provided, the more personalized and valuable their experiences should become.
Myth #3: Privacy and personalization are at odds with one another.
While data privacy concerns are ticking upwards, research reveals that exchange-for-More-Value-Better-Experience.html” target=”_blank” class=”color-link” title=”https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2022/04/07/2418565/0/en/Sailthru-and-Coresight-Research-Report-Finds-80-of-Consumers-are-Willing-to-Share-Data-in-exchange-for-More-Value-Better-Experience.html” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer” data-ga-track=”ExternalLink:https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2022/04/07/2418565/0/en/Sailthru-and-Coresight-Research-Report-Finds-80-of-Consumers-are-Willing-to-Share-Data-in-exchange-for-More-Value-Better-Experience.html” aria-label=”80% of consumers”>80% of consumers are still willing to give out their information in exchange for more value and better experiences. They just don’t like most companies’ approach to relevancy today; only 22% of consumers indicate the information companies collect about their behavior makes their online experiences better.
To personalize experiences without crossing into invasive territory, companies need to focus on three key pillars: transparency, meaningful choice and fair value exchange. That means being clear about what types of data they’re collecting and how they’re going to use it; offering consumers granular choice over how much information they want to share and when; and ensuring the tradeoff of data to value is balanced and fair so consumers are willing to share more information over time.
Myth #4: Marketers are out of options.
While throwing your arms up in frustration over the chaotic, complicated privacy landscape may be tempting, there are ways to move forward. Privacy regulation and the death of the third-party cookie are creating opportunities to increase the size and value of privacy-compliant first-party data. In fact, 76% of companies now say they’re investing in a first-party data strategy.
Instead of simply collecting ever greater amounts of data, companies need to make sure they’re taking advantage of the data they already have. Since first-party data is unique to each company, it can be used to create personalized experiences that no competitor can replicate. As such, companies should be prepared to tailor their communications based on as much—or as little—data that consumers are willing to provide. That means leveraging the signals you get from consumers and what you know about their common buying journeys to deliver highly valuable and relevant messages at each stage of their journey.
Like it or not, data privacy will be the most important issue in the next decade. Companies can either be pulled along against their will, or they can be proactive. Instead of thinking about how to collect data and offer personalization in spite of privacy regulation, companies need to harness privacy practices as part of their customer engagement strategy. The time for change is now.