How to Survive in a Privacy-First World

Over the past few years, Data Privacy has taken a central stage not only for Marketing but also for larger organisations. 2020 really marked the occasion and brought this new privacy-first world to life!

Last year only, Europe registered an increase of 19% in daily reported GDPR violations. 2020 was also the year where some of highest GDPR fines to date were given.

  • 50M euros fined to Google for not providing transparency and lacking valid user consent
  • 35M euros fined to H&M for wrongly recording sensitive personal data about their employees
  • 27,8M euros fined to the Italian Telecommunication Operator TIM for several privacy violations, including contacting users without proper consent

But that’s not all. Some of the biggest tech players announced new updates to protect users from being tracked on their browsers and devices. Apple reduced 1st party cookie lifespan and limited the ability for brands to track users across sites by now completely blocking all 3rd party cookies; while Google announced they were also planning on phasing out third party cookies entirely on their Chrome browser by 2022. 

With all that being publicly communicated in the press, consumer-trust level in brands was highly affected – with various impact levels depending on the industry. McKinsey reported (survey led in the US in 2020) that the healthcare and financial industries were to show the highest level of trust with 44%, while the CPG, media and entertainment industries achieve the lowest score with only 10%. With such low trust-level, it is no surprise that users are reluctant to share their data with businesses. Consumers will not hesitate to walk away from doing business with a company that does not demonstrate good privacy practices neither is transparent or ethical enough.

Let’s also not forget that users are given a large privacy toolbox nowadays to control who gets their data and when they get it: built-in cookie blockers, ad-blocking software (used by +/-600m users in the world), incognito browsers (used by +/-40% of the world-wide internet users).

Today, showing that you are doing the right thing with your users’ data is no longer seen as a luxury but as a true differentiator for brands

If you haven’t started yet – trust me, you are not the only one 

If you haven’t thought about it yet, you should start sooner rather than later. Concerns around privacy will not only affect your marketing activations but can have a real impact on your business bottom line. It is a true threat and reason for larger organisational change!

The very first step is to make an inventory of all the data your company captures. This includes data given directly by the customer but also data coming from tags. This will help you understand how vulnerable your company can be against existing regulations but also considering the death of third-party cookies.

Can you justify all the data your company is holding on to? Is this communicated clearly to the users? Are you capturing data through implicit or explicit consent? How reliant are you on third party data to reach out to your audience? Those are questions you should start asking yourself now.

What are some key guidelines to keep in mind?  

Let’s start with the fact that it is not a question of being ethical or not. It is not a binary position. You need to find the right balance you are willing to apply in your relationship with your customers. How much of a personalised experience do you want to deliver and how much of the data you need is your consumer ready to release?

1) Gain your consumers’ trust

The easy answer to “How to gain someone’s trust?” is “Tell the truth”.  

In this context, keep in mind that whenever a user is giving out their data, you need to be crystal clear as to how that data will be used. You will certainly use it in many different ways:   

  • Personalise their website experience during their next visit? Say so.  
  • Send them recommendations based on their prior purchases? Say so.  
  • Retarget them with card abandonment messaging? Say so. 
  • Contact them via Facebook ads? Say so.  

2) Be transparent and forefront

You need to be explicit, forefront and honest in your communications with your future and existing customers. That may be a given but you will not gain your consumers’ trust by hiding everything in your terms and conditions, at the very bottom of your website.

The consumer has to feel like they are in the driving seat when it comes to their data. You are probably thinking about making that cookie banner truly visible upon landing; but there are other tools that you can leverage as well. For instance, make it very easy to access their full data through an easy-to-navigate user portal. The search to exercise their right to be forgotten should also not take hours.

3) Show them the reward

It is all about the value exchange between the consumer and your company. Think about that very basic concept of a user trading in their data for better experiences with your brand. With this idea in mind, the reward that the user gets in exchange for their data needs to be worth it for that person.

One last thing: you do not have to ask for all at once. This is almost part of building a trust relationship with your customers, where you prove yourself bit by bit. As you continue gaining their trust, you can engage them to give additional data in exchange for more value. Yes, patience is in order!

The future is still very unclear as to where exactly we are headed with cookies getting sunset and all the new privacy regulations coming our way, but organisations should prepare themselves.

It is important to know where your company stands from a data standpoint, and this across silos within your organisation. Data privacy is not only a marketing concern but should be a priority for every departments and be supported by management.

Last but not least – keep in mind that being a truly ethical company comes as a key differentiator for the majority of consumers: gain their trust, be transparent and trend toward building up that value exchange.


About the Author: Elaine Lorent
Elaine is our Head of Data Strategy at NOBI. She spent 8+ years in Media and Digital Analytics, with focus on CDP, DMP and CRM strategies. Elaine has a Master of Science In Integrated Marketing & Analytics from the New York University. Her passion is to help brands leverage their 1st, 2nd & 3rd party data in a meaningful and responsible way, to become fully data-driven organisations.


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