4 Ways To Fight The Privacy Vs. Relevance Battle

When McKinsey’s Periscope recently asked people whether they wanted retailers to optimize their shopping experience by connecting online and offline shopping data, over 60% of them said “I would rather they didn’t use my information in that way.”

Marketers have heard for years that email marketing should be relevant and personalized. Connecting data points is the most important step towards achieving that goal. So why are people saying they don’t want marketers to connect the data so that communications can be more relevant and personalized?

Privacy concerns, and people’s trust in retailers’ ability to secure their data, seems to be the real issue here. According to a recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Feedzai, “Personalization doesn’t mean squat. More than eight in 10 (83%) Americans are unlikely to give companies more access to their information in exchange for better marketing or personalization.”



Marketers have long been wary of the “creep” factor when it comes to relevance. Now privacy concerns threaten to make relevance even more difficult to do well. Below are four things marketers can — and should — be doing to improve trust and pave the way for relevance and personalization.

Partner. Marketers should be working with their IT peers to understand data security and what their company is doing to improve it.

Asking IT security experts to address marketing staff about security efforts is a starting point, but their material is likely to need a bit of translation before it’s ready for prime time. Remember that IT and marketing people speak entirely different professional languages, and get a good translator to bridge the gap and work with IT to create a story that marketers can understand and rally behind.

It’s also worth looking at what IT is doing to limit exposure when a data security breach does happen. A security breach may be inevitable, but understanding how IT can limit the damage can be very reassuring.

Educate. Most people aren’t interested in the latest encryption schemes, but they do want to hear things that help them feel their data is more secure. Marketers should think about four or five things that their IT peers shared that felt reassuring about their company’s efforts, and then reframe these security efforts in ways that are shareable for consumers.

For example, a link in every single email to a dedicated security Web page with easy-to-understand infographics could help people feel better about your company’s security efforts.

Acclimate. Getting people used to thinking about data security can go a long way toward persuading them that you can be trusted with their data. Financial services providers such as Citibank and Chase do this well by putting a visual signal on each email that shows people that the email isn’t a phishing attempt and that it was sent by the bank to an individual. Many ecommerce Web sites display the TRUST-E or other security validation prominently on every page and again at checkout. Other industries will need to think about different visual signals that can be included in communications, both online and offline, to demonstrate efforts being made towards data security.

Acknowledge. Partnering with IT, educating people about company security efforts, and acclimating people to security consciousness are all proactive things that marketers can do about privacy concerns.

Every company runs the risk of a security breach eventually, so it’s worth talking about reactive efforts as well. Marketers should have a plan that includes ready-to-roll communications that acknowledge a data breach, presents a timeframe for communications as further details become known, identifies things already in place that helped limit the scope of the breach, and highlights steps that can be taken to prevent this type of breach from happening in the future.

With identify theft on the rise, it’s no wonder privacy is a big concern for many people. Smart marketers need to step up and start helping people understand the implications so that privacy stops being a barrier to relevance and personalization.

3 comments about "4 Ways To Fight The Privacy Vs. Relevance Battle ".
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  1. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC, September 6, 2016 at 12:17 p.m.

    I take "Creep" as a delicious pun in this context.  To continue in this vein I would say that creeps are galloping forward, not creeping, in an all-out assault on private information and behaviors.

    This is one leap too far. What next?  Will Tinder or be selling data packages so that you can determine where tomorrow night's date is spending this evening? Will insurers track applicants to see if they are visiting doctors' offices?  

    As the major portals push to associate anonymous IDs with individuals we approach an era where personal privacy is a fond memory from the past.

  2. Gretchen Scheiman from Alchemy Worx replied, September 7, 2016 at 3:29 p.m.

    I can't disagree that we - all of us, both in our jobs (as marketers) and in our personal lives - have been struggling for years with where the privacy boundaries should be. Early research demonstrated very clearly that there isn't a lot of agreement in the general public on the specifics, and that the answer to the question, "Should this be private?" is very much based on context - who asked, and when, and for what purpose.

    Data security is only one piece of a very big puzzle that we as marketers need to fit together very carefully, and with a lot of respect. 

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 21, 2016 at 8:55 a.m.


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