On the heels of newly-enacted GDPR and CCPA initiatives, the topic of how to protect consumer data in the digital marketplace has become a lightning rod for discussion at trade events, on blogs, and in publications — including a recent front-page article in The New York Times.
Brands and marketers are understandably wary. The issue of consumer privacy looms large. Rather than succumb to anxiety, however, our industry needs to embrace data transparency coupled with consumer control and consent. The establishment of safeguards around privacy will not only reduce the potential for fraudulent activity, it will also earn and sustain the respect and trust of our customers.
To inspire that confidence, the mobile-marketing community can start with the following three steps. Every data-privacy solution should be based on the model below — starting with a clear-eyed approach to the elements of mobile data we rely upon, and then pursuing best practices to a deep understanding of what consumers want out of a consented data exchange, and, ultimately, creating a relationship that honors the consumer’s central role in our work.
Step 1: See Your Consumer
The mobile device is the focal point of interaction between consumers and marketers. It is the window through which we see our shoppers and prospects. However, with that vantage comes great responsibility. As an industry, if we are to “see,” we must also guarantee that we only look for what is necessary in terms of adding value to the brand–consumer conversation.
There is an element of the mobile device that allows us to both see and to protect the consumer — the mobile device ID. While the device ID allows brands to examine what mobile devices are in use and which are willing to receive marketing messages, it is a number and not a name, and so the consumer data that shoppers grant — opting in each time — takes the form of non-personally identifiable (non-PII), privacy-sensitive information.
Starting with paid media, and then progressing to CRM — in and out of stores, both paid and owned media executions — and by gravitating to a combined understanding of behavioral, device, location, and psychographic data signals, our industry can leverage the device ID to identify consumers. With it, we can see the critical spectrum of consumer choices and preference — but we can guard customers against overreach as well.
Step 2: Know Your Consumer
In making a commitment to data privacy, advertisers and marketers must not only win consumers’ faith and confidence, but also they cannot stray from creating context-rich mobile targeting — the kind that reaches consumers in the most relevant ways. We must learn to know the customer as well.
Achieving that goal takes a mix of data. This mix must be hyper-dynamic — meaning content is up-to-the-minute and tailored in accordance with each consumer’s unique movement patterns — and, in addition, artificial-intelligence solutions and machine-learning applications should bring real-time information to the array of resources at advertisers’ and marketers’ command.
The outcome we’re after is inspiration — anticipatory inspiration — so that we can predict consumers’ ideal wants and needs. Hitting that mark translates into increasingly aligned ad content, all with the data-privacy of the device-ID strategy intact.
Step 3: Respect Your Consumer
When you see and know your ideal “tribe” of shoppers with data-driven clarity, you can extend to them the ultimate respect — control over the relationship as they choose it, when and how they want to engage.
For instance, as Gary Ng at Verve noted in a recent article, imagine if digital profiles were stored and managed exclusively on consumers’ devices. These profiles could then be encrypted and synced via cloud services with other mobile platforms. In such a scenario, consumers would be able to determine which personal details and interests to include and they could also decide which relevant attributes to share with brands.
No matter our goals around audience insights, best-case targeting, and inspired messaging, marketers must always empower consumers with better data-protection models and operating practices. Our industry must raise the bar in terms of developing and deploying sophisticated control and usage mechanisms for the consumers that trust us with their data in the first place.
2019: Year of Consumer Privacy
This year, our industry can expect even more energy around the topic of consumer data privacy. The forces set in motion by last year’s commencement of GDPR enforcement are unalterable, and they will continue to ripple throughout the mobile- and digital-marketing world.
The good news is, advertisers and marketers will also have the benefit of hindsight. There is much that we can learn from early regulatory actions and outcomes already, and we will also almost certainly see the progression of federal data-privacy action take root in the US.
Rather than creating anxiety, this should prompt our own commitment to energize — adding the call for a single consistent federal regulatory structure to the conversation and, again, doubling down on meaningful solutions for both consumers and companies. When we talk about respecting the consumer, we mean the device-ID model, in particular — it offers a more sophisticated control ecosystem, one in which consumers themselves can decide which data they wish to share, and which data is off limits.