Personalization vs Privacy

B2B Digital Marketing Digital Marketing Local Business Marketing Strategy

One of the most popular and concerning debates today revolves around data protection and consumer privacy. Countries from the most developed to the budding, developing third world nations, are seeking to come up with ways to ensure their citizens’ privacy is not compromised at the hands of businesses and marketers.

The Personalization vs Privacy debate

Businesses today are in fierce competition, regardless of the industry. Simply put, the consumer today is being eyed by multiple businesses at the same time, with each company trying to one-up the other. For this, various companies and their marketers keep a close eye on consumer choices and how they function via consumer data generated, collected, and shared based on consumer activity online.

Between the competition among businesses which required collecting and scouring through voluminous data and every consumer being wooed with personalized products and a customized experience, the lines of protecting the consumers’ data became blurry. As a result, the past few years have seen some of the largest data leaks in history. This has led to widespread global concern and subsequent call for customer data protection.

Data collection and analysis has been around for as long as there have been businesses. Knowing that the customer appreciates your product and improving service to retain customers and build loyalty is the ultimate goal of every marketing campaign. With the advent of technology and its rapid speed and reach, this process of data collection has become automatized, convenient, and connected. The results of this specialized exercise were grand and successful marketing campaigns which led to a subsequent rise in the appeal and demand for personalized products.

The consumer too approved of this exercise and was rewarded with tailor-made products, host of personalized options and a great user experience. So, they started ‘agreeing’ rather quickly to all the terms and conditions, without actually reading through the time consuming, tedious, and technical details of the offer. Moreover, the age of social media and instant gratification has us living the ‘I Saw, I Wanted, I Got it !’ life where we happily agree to share our choices with a few taps to communicate with marketers (and getting) exactly what we want!

But over time, the consumers started getting anxious about the way their data was being handled and questioned the ethics and the practice of storing customer data. While data and predictive analytics are in all the rage, protecting the privacy and reassuring the customer was a challenge for marketers. Unbeknownst to them, they had given access to their digital activity which was being tracked and worked to influence them. Many consumers admitted to reducing their online activity because they found the trend of personalized content ‘invasive’ of their privacy and they felt exposed on the internet.

This brought to fore the question of whether personalized content is prioritized over the privacy of its consumer.

Addressing consumer privacy concerns

According to Mckinsey, “getting security and privacy right begins with remediating and transforming the digital-marketing applications and systems that generate, transmit, consume, store, or dispose of consumer data.”

This means handling and storing data carefully with enforced security norms and reorganizing marketing efforts around data management and protection. A few steps to begin ensuring effective data management are as follows:

  • Educating and understanding data protection and developing strategies to tackle risks and build safeguards and allocating funds and trained personnel is a good start
  • Data protection and security is a policy concern for effective governance, so marketers need to work in close quarters with government norms. Practices like ‘tokenization and sanitization of data before remarketing’ is coming up to be an effective control measure
  • Inculcate data protection as a value in company policies. Creating security roles for teams, conducting annual training, and adopting practices like parsing data to protect individual credentials
  • Conducting anti-phishing test campaigns and having response plans to defend and tackle in case of a breach to regulate data transmission
  • Prioritizing security and privacy in software development, making developers accountable and raising the standards of security on applications
  • Integrate personalization into privacy by offering customized data protection for customer-facing applications by providing in-built data controls with multi-factor authentication by text, phone call, One Time Passwords etc. and relieve customer concerns by refining and updating security norms regularly

Personalizing Privacy: Relevance for Businesses

Businesses and companies need to prioritize customer data privacy to actually conserve and protect the customer and not because ‘data protection’ is in vogue. This is because data protection is a technical exercise which needs to be handled with the utmost care. Haphazard security norms or a less than capable approach just to save time or money are not enough.

Today, data protection is a priority for every brand out there. Mishandling data is operational, financial and legal risk and voids at the business end will not only cost a company its loyal customers but also tarnish its reputation costing its potential audience and future growth.

Any marketing strategy today needs to focus on winning the customers’ confidence and building a transparent and accountable relationship where the customer to needs to be aware of the responsibilities and risks involved. Digital marketing needs to approach data security with an open mind to become a reliable customer data host, capable of assuaging privacy concerns while maintaining business value.


Associate Director – Paid Media

Ethinos Digital Marketing Pvt. Ltd.

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