Don't Be Creepy: Keeping Subscribers Comfortable In The Days Of Diminishing Privacy

by , Feb 15, 2012, 11:40 AM
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A couple of years ago, the major conversations about privacy in the email world concerned list sharing: Is it okay to share your subscribers’ email addresses with your sister brands? Is it okay to market to purchased lists? Now, with the ever-increasing interconnection of our subscribers’ email habits and their other social networking sharing, privacy questions get more complex and expansive. We have multiple contact points with subscribers, reaching not just their inboxes but their mobile devices and their social networks. The lines have blurred.

Last year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg started conversations about the disappearing social norm of privacy, but continuing concerns about changing privacy policies of big tech companies show that the expectation of privacy is far from gone. In December, MarketingCharts published an article citing a National Cyber Security Alliance and McAfee study finding that one in three Americans are concerned with their privacy in the online world.

Google recently announced a change to its privacy policy, which has received mixed reactions, including a reactionary ad campaign from Microsoft, in which Microsoft undercuts Google’s message and moves to position itself as the safer, more privacy-conscious tech giant (for a summary, see this article in the Huffington Post.)

The full implications of Google’s privacy policy changes remains to be seen, but what this exchange can show us is that positioning one’s brand as the most privacy-conscious option may grow as a marketing option.

Now that privacy policies have made their way into daily conversations, email marketers really need to think about how the public awareness will impact messaging. Privacy in the email space is pretty different. Our subscribers explicitly give us permission to contact them and, depending on the preference center, we can learn a myriad of data points about each subscriber. We also have access to our subscribers’ behavior. We know which campaigns they’ve opened, which products they’ve clicked on -- and sometimes, even behavior they’ve taken while on the site (purchasing, browsing, etc..).

As sophisticated marketers, we want to use these behaviors to retarget our subscribers with information that is relevant and timely. A huge challenge here is the messaging. How can you be relevant without being too specific? We want to develop one-to-one relationship marketing, and we want our subscribers to be confident that we’re protecting their information.

Here are a few tips for messaging in behavior-based campaigns:

Browse Behavior: Rather than focusing on a specific product, send browse campaigns that feature categories. Know your subscriber base. Teenagers who have grown up with the Internet may expect and demand behavior-based messaging. Older or less Internet-savvy subscribers may be surprised by it, and you might consider including copy that tips them off to what's going on: "We saw that you are interested in couches.” Use copy to position your responsive messaging as value-added -- without the creepy factor.

Previous Purchase: Amazon has helped pave the way with this particular type of campaign. Subscribers are now accustomed to receiving recommended products post-purchase. To be even more effective, find ways to help the subscriber see how the additional products or accessories would improve the experience of using the previous purchase.

Abandoned Cart: This is a huge opportunity to deliver excellent customer service. This applies to industries beyond retail, too! If someone begins the process of applying for a loan, or signing up for a webinar, this type of campaign can help get the subscriber to complete the process. It’s usually acceptable to be pretty overt about why the person is receiving this campaign. Don’t forget to include the benefits they would receive by completing the form, application or process.

The inbox is a special place. Sure, there are pervasive ads and distractions all around. The only messages that make it into the inbox are ones the subscriber has requested to receive. It’s our responsibility to continue to deliver messages that resonate with our subscribers and maintain the level of trust they have with their favorite brands and companies.

 

 

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