There is now growing evidence that consumers across the globe have significant concerns about how companies handle, process and share their personal data.
Our recent report entitled Privacy Made Positive®, where Securys collaborated with Kantar to look at the US market, uncovered that as many as 97% of consumers pay attention to privacy issues and 75% choose a supplier based on their privacy commitments.
Yet up until recently data privacy compliance within companies has largely been the preserve of privacy, legal teams and tech teams as they fulfil the statutory requirements of legislation like CCPA (California, US).
Why privacy is marketing issue
Customer privacy concerns, however, also impact sales and marketing teams. Our report found that 63% of Americans occasionally, or frequently, halted a purchase over privacy concerns. That’s a huge amount of lost revenue.
There clearly is an opportunity for marketers not only to have a seat at the table when privacy is discussed, but as the custodians of a company's consumer-facing image they need to ensure brand values, especially those relating to trust, are central to any decisions.
To be fair to the marketing industry it is not a concern that has been paramount until now. However there are signs that marketers are beginning to take notice.
Securys recently co-hosted a well-attended webinar with the American Marketing Association (AMA) entitled ‘Privacy Sells: The Value US Consumers Place on Privacy’, in which both panellists and attendees expressed informed and insightful views.
Among the speakers was Amy Nixon, the Senior Vice President Strategy at 9Rooftops Marketing, who acknowledged that most marketers didn't get into their job to think about things like data privacy. “It is on a marketers list, but not something they're hugely passionate about,” she told the attendees.
Yet Amy stressed that privacy issues should be at the forefront of their minds. “This is a problem that consumers have and marketing should help consumers find solutions. If I put enough effort in as a marketing person, I can make meaningful changes.
“US consumers are more sophisticated than people think…we [marketing] would help with a uniform approach, understanding what is being collected and why.”
There is a window of opportunity for marketers to help their companies rethink data privacy. Not to simply tick regulatory boxes, but to innovate in delivering ‘best in class’ initiatives that not only chime with customers but make them feel comfortable and secure when making purchases or interacting with a brand.
In some ways marketers are playing catch up. One key fact the report uncovered was that consumers are very sophisticated when it comes to understanding the value of their personal data and how companies could potentially abuse it.
They are not afraid to take action too. On one level this could mean abandoning purchases if they don't feel confident that the company will respect their data concerns. Over 65% of US men and 50% of women have taken further steps asking for a correction or deletion, processing of their data to be stopped, or for their data not to be sold on.
Another panellist, Adara Bowen, Executive Vice President Growth and Strategy at the American Marketing Association, argued that trust is key.
“I think first off, we have to accept the fact that mistrust is probably the norm. So it's not a matter of being innocent until proven guilty. It's not a matter of, hey, our customers trust us unless there's a data breach and then we're gonna lose their trust. I think we have to embrace the fact that we need to think about it from the other direction.”
Ben Rapp, the Founder and Principal at Securys outlined how companies could encourage consumers to share more about their preferences. “If we can build a trust environment, where consumers actually want to share more information because they directly see the value they get back from doing that. Then you can use privacy as a leader to drive a competitive advantage.”
Trust as a brand differentiator
We are beginning to see brands shape marketing campaigns around their privacy in a positive way. In 2021, for example, Apple put privacy at the centre stage of its media communications. Privacy is not just a corporate ideal, it is now a major marketing initiative across the company distinguishing its products and services from its rivals.
At Securys we think other companies should follow Apple’s lead. If marketers collaborate with tech and legal teams to create best practices they are in a position to communicate those gold standards to consumers.
Trust can be a brand differentiator, but marketers shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the task of building it, or be intimidated by legal and tech teams, but instead start the ball rolling. As another of the panellists Joana McKenna, CEO of Jane.com, pointed out during the webinar, data privacy should be an ongoing process.
“I think it's about defining ‘best in class’ – looking at where we want to be. It can be overwhelming, so it’s about identifying bite-sized initiatives which take data privacy front of mind. It takes time, creating an ecosystem to do what is at the highest level, not the bare minimum. Creating a platform where consumers feel safe. The more we can chip away and start executing on deliverables to drive a ‘best-in-class’ experience for customers who want to shop online, the more effective our marketing becomes.”
In practice this means marketers having a deeper understanding of privacy and what this means to their brand. Then they can review how certain practices could disrupt a customer journey or make customer’s query whether a company would handle their personal data in a responsible manner.
By taking positive action to review their approach to data privacy, companies can create a halo around their brand. And marketers, who are responsible for making their brands stand out, should take a major role in those discussions.