Brands have always focused on personal touches and customization for consumers, yet a recent eMarketer report found growing concerns around data privacy, with nearly nine out of 10 consumers saying it’s important to them. In fact, three out of 10 consumers worldwide have switched providers due to concerns with those companies’ data policies or data-sharing practices adding fuel to the fire.
It’s not surprising given we’re in an era of rampant data breaches hitting retailers, with consumers becoming more aware — and concerned — with how brands collect, use and store their personal information. This has led to extreme distrust, fear and even anger. On the flipside, brands and retailers have been gathering and tracking massive amounts of data on consumers, usually without their knowledge, which is then often sold to third parties. Brands do this under the guise of helping provide a better customer experience, but it only takes one breach for that to completely wipe out consumer trust — it exposes the extent to which brands collect, track and keep consumer data on file.
It’s a perfect storm and we’ve hit an inflection point — consumers are fearful and angry, data privacy policies are in the hot seat, and retailers are in the crosshairs. But there are glimpses of hope — the upcoming California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) will be the closest thing the U.S. has to Europe’s GDPR, and while it won’t take full effect until January 1, 2023, it will start applying to data collected beginning on January 1, 2022. And brands beware: CCPA’s noncompliance penalties are steep and could cost a retailer as much as $5-$10 billion.
Identify a Clear Value Exchange
Despite data privacy legislation slowly starting to take shape, retailers need to shift their mindset from thinking only laws and technology are the silver bullet to this problem. In other words, even with CCPA or an ‘American GDPR’ in place, it would leave out a crucial part of the equation — a clear value exchange for consumers.
When you focus on the consumer experience it becomes the foundation for effective communication and meaningful engagement. The reason why cookie pop-ups and legislation like GDPR don’t work well is because consumers truly don’t see or understand the value exchange.
For instance, if a consumer scans a QR code to receive an offer from a retailer, it might open that brand’s app or take them to a mobile site, which then tracks their personally identifiable information (PII) or requires them to manually enter it. Either way they’re essentially forced to decide before even establishing any type of relationship with that brand — is that 20% off coupon worth handing over your personal information?
The crux of the issue is centered on a complete lack of transparency as to how, when and where that brand will use someone’s data, how long they’ll keep it, or even if they’ll sell it to a third party. This all adds up to a horrible customer experience, but some brands simply don’t care as they only see how tracking consumer behavior through things like QR codes benefits their bottom line. But that’s all about to change whether they like it or not — it’s time for consumers to take back control over their personal data but, just as importantly, not to a brand’s detriment.
Start Working with First-Party Data
When brands shift their focus to collecting and leveraging consented first-party data, it can restore consumer trust through two-way transparent engagement without any hidden surprises or behind-the-scenes tracking. Any data privacy legislation should also ensure consumers can easily and directly opt out of sharing their data. That means being able to revoke a brand’s access to one’s data, but also holding brands accountable by removing third-party access to any and all of the data that they may have sold or shared.
The ultimate goal here is to empower every customer to understand how, where and when their data is collected, used and even stored. By establishing a clear, direct line of communication and consent between consumers and brands, shoppers will change their tune and start engaging in relationships that are built on trust and transparency, while still allowing brands to provide superior customer experiences — all through first-party, express consent.
3 Tips When Navigating the new Data Privacy Landscape
Regardless of where brands are on their data privacy journey, the most important thing is that they’re on it. To that end, having a solid starting point and some guidance is always helpful, which can be laid out in three key areas:
- Simplify your data privacy policies by making them straightforward and easy to understand when getting consumers’ direct consent to access, store and keep that first-party data.
- Establish a consumer-centric approach that is built on transparency and trust, and allows consumers to understand how and where their data is used as well as the ability for them to easily revoke access.
- Try out new technology and start testing agnostic, privacy-compliant solutions that don’t require you track or collect PII data, which simplifies the process and allows retailers to show they are consumer advocates.
Current data privacy laws in the U.S. are disparate and cobbled together, but brands need to start changing their policies now — not just because they’ll face hefty fines, but because data privacy policies and the customer experience are becoming inextricably linked. Remember, without transparency there’s no trust, and without trust there’s no engagement. That’s not a gamble I think any retailer is willing to take.
Jesse Redniss is CEO and Co-founder of Qonsent, a data privacy enablement and engagement platform built for consumers and brands. Redniss is an Emmy-nominated Media, Data and Technology executive with 20+ years of data strategy, privacy expertise, multi-screen brand building and innovative product development. Prior to Qonsent, he was the EVP of Data Strategy at WarnerMedia where he oversaw the development of WarnerMedia’s Innovation Lab and the WarnerMedia Investments portfolio, and also led the enterprise-wide data and privacy strategies. Redniss is also a Co-founder of the strategic advisory and investment firm, BRAVE Ventures. Follow him on Twitter (@jesseredniss) and connect with him on LinkedIn.