Sorry, Email Marketers -- The Public Just Doesn't Trust You

It can be sobering to look at the data in any digital marketing channel, and this morning there's quite a wake-up call for European email marketers as they consider strategies to keep compliant with GDPR before its huge fines are introduced in two years. As meetings are held wondering what to do about privacy and how customers feel about handing over personal information, in transpires the public trust brands a lot less than they may like to think.

There's no way of sugar-coating this, so we might as well get it out there. Nearly three in four consumers -- 71% -- think that brands use data unethically, and a further 78% believe adverse publicity would not put a brand off using their data unethically. That is the finding of a report by Edelman and The University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre. 

As if a lack of trust were not enough, it's also leading to consumers being cautious how they behave online. More than half -- 58% -- say they have not given over their email address or downloaded an app for fear of their personal data falling into the wrong hands. 

So treating data with greater care is a must -- but so too is customer information. Those 58% of people who have avoided giving a brand an email address or downloading their app have done so because they either don't know the brand or don't trust it enough to be reassured that the address won't get spammed by the brand in question and sold on so it can get spammed some more.

If anything underscores why GDPR was needed, it is these findings. The protection offered to customers will be reinvigorated with massive fines, but that is a secondary issue. The main point will be that consumers will have to tick boxes for exactly what they give permission for. There can be no mission creep, as Groupon customers will know only too well where a person gets added to countless email lists so it's almost impossible to unsubscribe. Instead, the permission box put in front of them will need to be clear with an explanation of exactly what use the email address will be put to.

It will be a pain and lists are going to shrink, but customers should at least start trusting brands have been up front with them and will act responsibly with their data. When you consider an average of three in four customers think brands don't use data ethically and are not put off from acting badly because of a threat of adverse publicity, there really is no way forward. Free, informed and unambiguous consent can only help but reverse the mistrust that has crept in between customers and the brands asking for an email address to strike up a personal conversation.

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