If the consumer is king, it is (about) time they rule over their own data

There’s no doubt about it, 2018 propelled the topics of trust and transparency to the forefront of marketers minds. From the introduction of new data privacy laws to the continual media coverage surrounding misused consumer data, it’s clear that consumers now understand the power their data holds, and they won’t tolerate when technology companies disrespect that power. We’re just over a month into 2019 and large tech giants have been in the news again for abusing consumer trust. This not only impacts the reputation of those companies, but it impacts the entire industry. And the recently empowered consumer isn’t going to stand for it anymore.

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered in my 10+ years in the marketing and technology space, it’s that the consumer is king. Okay, maybe I didn’t discover that, but I’ve certainly ingrained that concept into all my business practices – and so should you. If the consumer really is king, we need to start treating them like one; which begins by allowing them to rule over their own data.

A consumer’s data is their crown jewels

Consumers today are extremely smart and understand that their data is a valuable possession. A possession that they don’t need to share with anyone they don’t want to. So why would they share it? A study by the DMA discovered that the most important factor for consumers in deciding to share their personal data is whether they trust the relevant organization. In fact, 54% of respondents ranked this option in their top three considerations for data exchange.

Along with trust, transparency remains a key requirement for consumers to engage in information exchange with organizations. Between 85% and 88% of consumers state that transparency over data collection and sharing are important when sharing personal information with businesses. There’s no denying that consumers demand trust and transparency, and it’s all of our responsibility to provide it. Not because recent laws are forcing us to, but because it is what’s in the best interest of the consumer. Respect the king.

Start being compliant, or prepare to pay a King’s ransom

Not even a year into GDPR and multiple tech companies have had to open their wallets to pay for their mistakes, including tech giant Google who was fined €50 million for violating EU data privacy rules. Failing to be compliant results in a far greater cost to an organization than money. Data breaches and privacy violations tarnish our entire industry’s reputation.

More often than not, the big guys like Google and Facebook will bear the brunt, but the truth is, they’re not alone in failing to provide transparency and gain consumer trust. In fact, Forrester reported that a staggering 87% of all organizations they surveyed had encountered a data breach in 2018 alone. Tech companies need to not only respect consumers by not misusing their data, but they also need to respect their peers by not giving our industry a bad name. You may be 100% compliant, but if others aren’t being compliant you will still have to work twice as hard to gain consumer trust, and after all, trust is the currency of today.

Trust, transparency and compliance will allow you to hold court

There are over 7000 marketing technology companies in today’s landscape, and the average business partners with up to 20+ different companies at one given time. So how do you ensure you gain the respect of your consumers while also standing out from the cluttered crowd? You need to have integrity. Misleading your consumers and being ambiguous with your intentions will result in a lack of confidence and loyalty. We all know from Game of Thrones what happens when a King doesn’t feel loyalty from his subjects. Don’t make the mistake of beguiling your consumers.

Let’s take a look at the recent news surrounding Facebook paying users (as young as 13) to install a research VPN that allows them to access a ton of private information. This research app was banned by Apple as it breached their privacy policies. And Facebook wasn’t alone. Google’s app, Screenwise Meter rewarded users with gift cards in exchange for tracking their internet usage data, and was similarly removed by Apple. With the app still available on the Google Play Store, I took a look at Active Insights, Ogury’s insights solution which revealed some interesting insights.

First-party mobile user journey data revealed that Google’s Screenwise Meter app users were extremely active across January. In fact, 94.5% of Screenwise Meter app owners engaged with the app at least once last month. Comparing that to Gmail (82.4%), Spotify (85.5%), Google Chrome (88.7%), and WhatsApp (89.6%), it’s clear users found the gift card exchange offer appealing – until the media covered the Apple policy breach. The day after the story broke we saw a decline in active app users. This goes to show that consumers have very little tolerance for misleading and dubious offers and that it is time for them to rule over their own data, which we all need to be there to help them with.

Treating consumers with respect is the noble thing to do

Both Facebook’s Research app and Google’s Screenwise apps are fully opt-in, but users still didn’t feel like they were being treated with respect. In an effort to be completely transparent, technology companies need to remove forced opt-ins and operate with integrity. Opt-in notices must be simple, yet informative. I recently spoke with technology industry expert, Barb Mosher Zinck from Diginomica who stated that Ogury’s privacy policy is one of the clearest she’s read. Ogury ensures to serve an explicit, clear and simple consent notice to all users, while also providing them an easy way to opt-out, at any time.

If the consumer really is King, it’s their right to hold the power. We don’t provide this power to the consumer to check off a box when it comes to privacy regulations. We do this because it’s the right thing to do, and I urge all other technology companies to do the same.

Evan Rutchik, Chief Revenue Officer, US