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Why Responsible Marketing Matters in an Age of User Data Breaches

Amid a backdrop of high-profile breaches, online data privacy and security dominated last year’s headlines. It was impossible to avoid images and sound bites of Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, testifying before Congress on private data collection and user confidentiality. The increased scrutiny was certainly warranted with the revelation that Facebook had exposed the private information of 50 million users. Google has grappled with its own scandals, including a security breakdown that led to the shuttering of its social media platform Google Plus.

These events prompted considerable soul-searching within the industry and a collective effort to calm consumers’ fears. Facebook and Google have already spent significant resources attempting to improve their security processes. In May 2018, the European Union adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to manage the collection and use of personal data. While the long-term effects of these developments remain to be seen, the public shift toward prioritizing user privacy has been undeniable.

Target Responsibly

Industry giants like Facebook and Google aren’t the only ones that need to re-evaluate how they’re using customers’ information. Even the smallest retailers must follow suit and think about their own policies. This means enforcing better controls around customer targeting in paid search and social advertising.

Targeting customers is an exciting tool in a marketer’s arsenal, but it’s startlingly easy to cross the line from appropriate to intrusive without even realizing what you’re doing. Once you acquire a new customer, it may be tempting to retarget them quickly to keep your brand firmly on their radar. However, it’s wise to allow a “cooling off” period, as nobody enjoys feeling like a business is stalking them. An ad displaying a product a user viewed on your site a couple days ago can be an effective way to set them back on the conversion path. Showing it to them after just five minutes is only likely to annoy them (and perhaps make them look over their shoulder).

Know When to Let Go

We understand. You never want to give up on a potential sale. But retailers need to consider that cutting bait with would-be customers is sometimes the most prudent course of action. As in any relationship, consumers appreciate when a brand recognizes that it just isn’t working. And if you handle the break-up respectfully, you never know what the future may hold should your paths cross again. Think in terms of closing gates rather than burning bridges.

Put this philosophy into action by deciding when your business will stop pursuing new site visitors based on past signals. It may feel like waving a white flag, but a more restrained approach can pay dividends in the long run and prevent consumers from growing fatigued (or downright angry) with your brand.

Strategize By Segment

Every customer is different, so chasing them all in the same manner could end in failure. Instead, establish multiple customer segments to measure their likelihood for an upsell or cross-sell, and target them accordingly. Some customers prefer being left alone to make their decisions, while others embrace being courted. Once you learn the best way to engage with different slices of your audience, you can go confidently after the sale without rubbing anyone the wrong way.

Make a Responsible Marketing Checklist

There is no one-size-fits-all privacy strategy, but you should keep several core principles and questions in mind as you determine how your brand can operate responsibly in the digital arena. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Respect your customers’ online time.
  • Don’t be intrusive beyond a certain point.
  • What brand impression are you creating if you’re too aggressive?
  • How soon is too soon to retarget? If a customer converts on your website, should you still be targeting them on social?
  • Recognize the customer’s right not to shop and establish a timeline in which you lay off the gas.

You can add more items to your list based on experiences with your own business.

With thoughtful, well-reasoned policies in place, your brand can respect users’ privacy and intent while ensuring that advertising dollars are being put to the best use. We have an unprecedented wealth of customer information at our fingertips, but that only means we must act even more judiciously in the way we market to consumers.What else does the future of retail search marketing have in store? Prepare your business for what lies ahead by reading our previous blogs on other buzzworthy topics like contextual search, automation, machine-readable entity IDs, and the “ideal customer” myth.