May 1, 2018 by Mark Brownlee

How brands can set themselves apart over the rise in privacy concerns

There is more debate about user privacy these days than ever before.

Which is great news for brands.

Wait – what?

It’s true.

The higher level of engagement around privacy is a good chance for companies to set themselves apart from competitors and highlight a universal business truth: The importance of knowing, and delivering value to, your customers.

The rise of privacy concerns

Privacy concerns are everywhere these days.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, is answering questions in Washington on user privacy.

The European Union is set to roll out the most comprehensive piece of privacy legislation in history.

The debate about the role of privacy violations in the 2016 US presidential electioncontinues.

All of it adds up to an inescapable fact: Privacy concerns aren’t going away any time soon.

Why is privacy important for business

The notion of respecting customers’ privacy is counterintuitive for many brands.

This is particularly true of marketers for whom the inclination has always been towards collecting more, not less.

There is, after all, a reason why “Big Data” is such a buzzword these days.

Brands want customer info so they can sell to them – as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Consider one of the most prominent examples: Facebook.

The social media giant has succeeded for a number of reasons. But it’s difficult to argue that respecting users’ privacy is one of them.

In fact the reverse is more likely: That Facebook succeeded because of a lack of transparency and respect for users’ data collection.

But here’s the thing, though.

Users were more willing to blindly sign off on forfeiting their privacy to brands when social media first rose to prominence.

With growing awareness (and more government regulation), those days are gone.

Why customer privacy matters

Privacy is important because it matters to your customer.

And if it matters to your customer, it should be important to you.

It’s that simple.

How privacy concerns will benefit brands

It will force them to offer more value to customers

The cost of getting a user’s data is about to go up.

As consumers become more aware of how their data is used, they’re going to start asking questions.

What will my data be used for?

Who will it be shared with?

How will it be protected?

That will make many more reticent to provide their information to brands.

Which means that the content you offer them will need to be that much more valuable.

Consider an e-book you’re offering on your site in exchange for a user’s e-mail address.

Once upon a time, audiences would have been willing to blindly hand over whatever information got them free content.

Not anymore.

More informed audiences will want to ensure they’re getting valuable content before signing off.

For example: One of the defining elements of the General Data Protection Regulation, the EU’s new legislation aimed at boosting privacy rights, is that users will have a right to know exactly how a brand will use its data.

Brands will need to tell users, up front and in plain language, exactly what the cost is going to be of getting that content.

The moral?

That content you’re offering better be worth it.

It will act as a value proposition differentiator

As privacy concerns grow, organizations will be able to build a respect for privacy into their value proposition.

This may not make much sense right now, given how many of the world’s largest companies fail to protect users’ privacy.

But it will only become more pronounced in the years to come.

For example: Apple and Google.

Both are tech giants. But each of them take a different approach to data privacy on devices.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has made a commitment to privacy part of his company’s brand. And he’s backed it up with products that offer more robust descriptions.

Google’s phones, meanwhile, don’t offer the same level of protection.

It’s just one example of how consumers will be given a choice between engaging with brands that are transparent and respect their privacy and those that don’t.

Which side will you be on?

It will eliminate black hat marketing tactics

HubSpot, an inbound marketing software as a service company, has been a staunch proponent of the GDPR.

Why?

Because it believes the new legislation will weed out some out-dated (and, frankly, ineffective) tactics for reaching audiences.

“Those companies which have put their own needs ahead of consumers and indulged in shady or outbound tactics are in for a shock,” writes HubSpot.

“Their world is going to change dramatically as the GDPR will hasten the demise of marketing tactics like buying lists, cold emailing and spam.”

These tactics were never great ways to retain customers.

Those marketers who do the hard work of building relationships with audiences from scratch will be the beneficiaries.

Mark Brownleeis a Digital Marketing Strategist at Banfield.

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