Why you don’t need to know your customers’ shoe size

Nicholas-108There is a common misconception that brands need access to every data point imaginable to understand and market to their customers, but this simply isn’t true. You don’t need to know your customers’ shoe size unless you’re selling shoes – and if you do sell shoes, you certainly shouldn’t be getting that data from unknown sources or by tracking them across the Internet.

With legal and consumer changes into how technology companies collect and silo data, along with changing expectations around privacy, many brands need to check and change their data and marketing strategies to ensure they stay both on the right side of the law and what their customers expect them to do with their data. Stating you’re an ethical brand conflicts when you plant cookies to see every other site they visit.

A survey conducted by Cisco examined the actions, not just attitudes, of consumers with respect to their data privacy. The survey revealed that 32% of respondents who said they care about privacy are willing to act, and have done so by switching companies or providers over data or data-sharing policies.

So, what can brands do instead? Thoroughly audit the first-party data you capture organically (e.g. an address for delivery fulfilment) and understand what other data you need to ask for to offer the best customer experience possible. Once you can justify what you’ll do with the data, establish trust with your customers – if you’re going to ask for data that helps you tailor what you send them, openly tell your customers that and deliver on that promise by offering value in return. Don’t track them secretly and be creepy.

Aim to remove PII data you never use – firstly, it’s the law, and when companies are suffering more targeted breaches than ever before (Purplesec reported that cybercrime was up by 600% due to the Covid-19 pandemic) it protects customers and your bottom line. No matter what happens with GDPR regulations in the UK in the coming years, keeping data secure should be a priority of every business.

Ensure your marketing and data systems let you store the data securely. Seek to anonymise data as much as possible – properly configured modern systems mean marketers and analysts don’t need to access any PII data to send highly personalised communications.

Brands need to take a proactive approach to ensuring optimal data privacy for their customers, not only to abide by law, but also to adhere to the expectations of consumers. At Armadillo we always apply a privacy by design approach to make the most of first-party data, while protecting consumer privacy. We believe this works for our clients and their customers.

Nicholas Blake-Steele is director of technology at Armadillo

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