Going Beyond the Retail Space: What Suppliers Need to Know in the ‘Age of Privacy’

Every successful brand has one universal trait in common: great customer engagement. And while every good marketing plan includes a variety of strategies, suppliers are increasingly aware that in today’s world, online engagement is a critical part of the mix.

Frito-Lay was among the first to recognize the enormous potential of directly engaging with customers online. When it launched the ‘Do Us A Flavor’ initiative for Lay’s brand chips in the U.S. in 2012, it had previously run the campaign successfully in other countries – but that year it added an extra component: a Facebook app. At the time, the development of an online app was viewed as a groundbreaking strategy for engaging directly with millennials. Fast-forward to 2018, and the brand has doubled-down yet again on its original strategy, adding the ability to purchase a selection of specialty flavored chips directly from its ‘Taste of America’ campaign website. By focusing heavily on a strategy of direct consumer engagement, Frito-Lay has increasingly added layers between itself and traditional retail outlets, building on its cache of brand loyalty year after year.

So, what does all this mean going forward? On the one hand, the trend in online engagement has shown enormous potential for brands, giving them a direct pipeline to a wealth of valuable consumer insights. But getting in on the action will also require suppliers to develop their own strategies for dealing with privacy and security – issues that have traditionally been relegated to end sellers. Which begs the question: in the new ‘Age of Privacy,’ is the potential payout really worth it?

More Privacy Doesn’t Mean Less Data

The good news is that having a clear, well-defined privacy policy can actually lead to even better data collection. Research shows that consumers who are most concerned about privacy will engage more often with brands that demonstrate transparency and provide customers with a sense of ownership regarding their personal data. By the same token, these same consumers tend to avoid brands that aren’t clear about their policies or lack adequate safeguards for protecting customer information. In a study conducted by Label Insights, 94 percent of respondents said policy transparency was critical to earning their loyalty; the SAP Hybris Consumer Insights Survey found that a staggering 72% of U.S. consumers expect brands to protect their interests when using or sharing data.

The bottom line? Suppliers that proactively work to meet consumer expectations about privacy are rewarded with higher levels of trust and loyalty, leading to more meaningful online engagement – and ultimately, more valuable data.

Take Apple, for instance – a brand that specializes in direct online engagement and boasts one of the most loyal customer bases on the globe. The company doesn’t merely address the issue of data transparency, it embraces it as the key component of its core brand values. The Apple website includes an in-depth privacy page which details the use of customer data in clear, branded language. Site visitors can even review the breakdown of security policies for data stored on the company’s iCloud platform. Far from being a roadblock to gaining valuable insights, Apple’s proactive commitment to transparency actually provides the peace of mind consumers need to fully engage with the brand.

Getting Your Policy Ducks in a Row

If your brand hasn’t already implemented an online engagement strategy, now is the time to start – and a critical first step will be developing clear policies regarding data privacy and security. Below are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

Crafting a privacy policy

While no two privacy policies are exactly alike, the Better Business Bureau suggests every policy should cover at least 5 core areas:

Notice. Describe the personal information being collected.

Choice. List the options customers have for controlling the collection and usage of personal data.

Access. Explain how customers can view their data and/or make corrections.

Security. Provide details about how data is stored and protected.

Redress. State what actions customers can take if they feel the privacy policy has been violated.

Of course, the specific language and scope of any policy will depend on the company’s particular engagement model. Generally speaking, every data collection device that a site deploys – such as using cookies to track visitors or requiring account registration – should be separately identified and explained.

Setting a baseline for data security

Only collect data that’s truly necessary. Gathering data just for the sake of gathering it increases the risk to both supplier and consumer. Beyond the obvious implications of a security breach, the indiscriminate collection of data can put a brand at risk of alienating its customers and losing valuable trust. Strive to collect data only when it’s critical to operational goals.

Keep only the data you really need. Stored data can be a liability; the best remedy is to keep only as much data as is reasonably needed. Set up a maintenance schedule regularly to purge outdated information.

Address all regulatory requirements. Wading through a complex web of rules and regulations regarding data collection and storage can be challenging – but it’s arguably the most critical component of any data security policy. To ensure full compliance with all applicable laws, seek professional advice from either a digital policy expert or an experienced attorney.

Beware of external risks. Even the most narrowly-focused engagement strategy will have some level of

third-party involvement. It’s important to carefully vet any and all partner networks to prevent unintentional gaps in your own data security.

Going all in on transparency

What exactly does it mean for a company to be transparent? The most common understanding of the term relates to how forthright an organization is about itself: its underlying mission, future goals, official policies, day-to-day practices, and so forth. In terms of privacy and security, being transparent means giving consumers a full accounting of your data collection practices, in plain, easily-understood language. By being upfront about how you handle customer data, you allow consumers to make an informed decision about interacting with your brand – a critical foundation for building long-term trust.

The Takeaway: It’s Time to Embrace the Future

The current trend of direct online engagement looks like it’s here to stay – and by all indication, it can deliver big on its promise for suppliers. Savvy brands understand that gaining a competitive edge for the future will require putting some skin in the data game now. The good news is that increased concerns about privacy can actually serve as the on-ramp for building brand loyalty and generating even higher-quality consumer data. And for that, everyone should welcome the Age of Privacy.

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