Today’s business landscape is replete with tales of security breaches, stolen customer information, and vulnerabilities patched-up to protect against ever-evolving threats.

Hackers are persistent and relentless, as 2015 proved, and prey on global organizations that have access to terabytes of user data – data that, in many cases, wasn’t consensually given to organizations or was saved despite consumers asking for it to be deleted. As a result, brands have destroyed consumer trust and their reputations have eroded.

While many point to hackers as the real issue, in reality, the issue is the organizations that are being trusted with this information. These brands correlate data with individuals and put customer trust at risk by not providing transparency around what data is being kept, where, for how long, and how it’s being used.

Guest Post by Elie Auvray, CEO, Jahia 

What is clear now, more than ever, is customers need to be at the heart of every business decision, and the role of the CMO is evolving to encompass the protection of customer data. CMOs need to serve as key allies for customers looking to regain and maintain full control of their digital lives.

So, what is an organization to do? More specifically, what is a marketer to do?

In today’s threat landscape, two questions marketers need to address are:

  • How does my company regain the trust of consumers to keep brand loyalty high?
  • If my company has managed to dodge a bullet so far, what can be done to proactively address risks?

As we move into 2016, here are the four P’s marketers should follow to build strong digital experiences in an ethical way:

1. Personification

As defined by Gartner, personification is “the delivery of relevant digital experiences to individuals based on their inferred membership in a defined customer segment, rather than their personal identity.” With this approach, you can anonymize information while still delivering value through focused digital campaigns targeted at certain segments. The key element here is only saving information that is valuable for both your business and the consumer. This will help keep sensitive information – that can fall into the hands of malicious hackers or just make consumers feel uncomfortable – out of your systems.

2. Profile

Be transparent with consumers about what information you have about them. With the rise of social media, mobile devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT), consumers have grown very conscious of the data floating around about them on the Web, in the cloud, and in business databases. To many, this state of affairs is reaching a tipping point between convenient and creepy. Marketers must respect consumers and treat them as human beings, rather than as data points that can be monetized. One way to foster trust is to be exceptionally open around what information you have on consumers at all times.

3. Privacy

After establishing what information you’re going to save about customers, agree on what you can do with their information. Experience matters. Work with your customers so you can deliver personalized experiences that will add value to their lives and excite them. Consumers want the safety and security in knowing their data is owned by them, and not you, and is only used for their benefit. They also want assurances that their personal information is not being sold to third parties and that the data tied to their identity is being safely monitored and maintained.

4. Promises

If a customer requests that you delete information about them, respect this wish and provide proof that you destroyed everything. Otherwise, your company can fall into legal trouble that will taint your brand. As a marketer, you are liable for customer data, and it is a legal offense when it is compromised. The goal is to have customers share their data by choice because your value is improving their lives.

Remember, the way you manage data will define you as a company. A slight doubt about your ethics when it comes to data prviacy is far more damaging than a missed moment with a potential customer. If you don’t protect your customers’ data and respect their boundaries, you will lose them. 

Image Source (Creative Commons): Sebastiaan ter Burg.

Elie Auvrey headshotElie Auvray, Co-Founder and CEO of Jahia Solutions Group SA, is a seasoned software entrepreneur with nearly 20 years in the industry. He founded his first company – Voice – in 1996 with Thomas Draier. In 1999, Voice merged with another company to create a global software provider, Reef Internetware. Elie was the General Manager for Reef France and built the first U.S. sales team. Reef successfully raised 85 million euros in 2001 from international venture capitalist (Goldman Sachs, 3i, Viventures). Reef Internetware IP was acquired by Mediasurface in 2002. Elie holds a Masters in Business & Tax Law from the University of Paris 2 and a Masters in Contract Law from the University of Paris 5 .

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