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Privacy is the magic word, but what about trust?

Privacy is the magic word, but what about trust?

Gerard BrinkmanPrivacy is the magic word, but what about trust

Written by Gerard Brinkman – November 23, 2017

With the upcoming GDPR legislation the whole digital marketing world is concerned about the impact of the new rules. Organizations need to reassure consumers that their privacy will be respected. Consumers have to go through cookie walls and other technology components in order to define which privacy rules they believe are protecting them sufficiently, but at the same time allowing them to get the best services or information. But not every internet consumer is literate in this area. If they feel defensive they may opt for a lower level of data collection, and hence not get optimal service. On the other hand if people take a more opted-in approach they may see unwanted retargeting message on many sites.

Trust the supplier

The word I typically miss is ‘trust’. In the past, if I went into a fashion store and the salesman recognized me as a frequent customer, he would typically greet me and try to offer me products that he considered relevant for me. He based that on things he knew about me, what I had bought in the past and what I told him about my personal life, interests, hobbies, and so on. It never occurred to me that my privacy was at risk. I gave all the information in good faith and expected the fashion company or the salesman to treat that information confidentially. In short, I trusted the supplier.


Multiple parties are listening

So what has caused the change? With the rise of martech and adtech technologies, many companies have participated in a race for the attention of the customer. Using modern cloud techniques all interaction data is not only shared with the owner of the website, but with many others as well. Sometimes up to 20 or 30 parties who are not the website owner collect (partial) information about my behavior. And this is in return for the promise of better marketing results, higher visibility, higher funnel performance etc. Suddenly I, as a consumer, have to protect my personal details. The fact is that today I have to understand that in any conversation I have with a business website, other unknown parties are also listening to that conversation. This creates distrust towards the company whose website I am visiting, and consequently I become concerned about my privacy.

Get relevance in return

What if we could bring back the trust in the relationship. I would then be confident that I can share information with my selected suppliers and in exchange for information I provide them, I would get relevance in return. No excessive retargeting and no e-mails about products at times when I don’t want them. Of course, this requires companies to be in control of, and accountable for, their data. Not because it is required by law, but because it establishes trust in the customer relationship.

So, the question is: can companies regain control over their data? This starts with customer-centric thinking and ensuring that no data is leaked externally, and when it is necessary to share, it can be done without harming the trust in the customer relationship. It means that the thinking starts with customers, not with (marketing) applications. Once we bring back the personal relationship and moreover trust in our business operation, we can expect customers to share more information rather than worrying about their privacy.