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Data privacy in marketing: best practices and key considerations for marketers

Unlock the secrets to ethical marketing and understand privacy our data-driven world.
Marketers learning about data privacy regulations.

Data privacy is a necessity in marketing. This is because as a marketer, you’re collecting data as customers interact with your brand. And now with so much online, there’s more data at your fingertips than you could have imagined before. Emphasizing customer data privacy and integrating it into your marketing strategy can foster trust with your audience while keeping you compliant. 

It’s important to prioritize customer data privacy and make it a central part of your marketing strategy. At Dotdigital, we know that understanding data privacy can be complex and you may have concerns and questions. That’s why we created this blog to explain the key considerations and best practices you should use. By embracing these practices you’ll build trust with your customers and comply with regulations.

What is data privacy?

In a nutshell, data privacy is the protection, and the fair and transparent use of an individual’s personal information, preferences, and activities. With the rise of online customer data, new measures have been developed to protect personally identifiable information (PII) such as full names, dates of birth, email addresses, financial details, and browsing history. 

How governments and organizations are safeguarding customer data privacy

To tackle the pressing concerns surrounding data collection, governments and organizations across the world are taking action to protect personal information. As a marketer, it’s important to be compliant when collecting data. Consider keeping an eye on these regulations:

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Data privacy regulations like GDPR have made a big impact on marketing. These regulations aim to give people more control over their personal data and make sure businesses ask for clear permission before getting and using their data. Due to this, digital marketers have had to change how they collect data and update their privacy policies to follow the new regulations.

One big challenge for marketers with GDPR is having to be extra clear about how they collect and use data. Companies have to let people know what they’re doing with their data and give them a choice to say yes or no to having their information collected. This makes it more complicated for marketers to target customers and personalize content, as they need to be sure they have the right permission from people before using their data.

Another key part of GDPR is handling requests for people to see or delete their data. Customers can ask companies to show them the data they have on them and request for it to be deleted if they don’t want it stored anymore. Marketers need to be ready to deal with these requests quickly and properly to follow GDPR regulations.

Emerging privacy legalization in the US

As data privacy evolves globally, the United States has started enacting its own privacy laws. Although the country has yet to implement a comprehensive, nationwide data privacy regulation similar to the European Union’s GDPR, individual states have begun stepping up their efforts to protect their citizens’ privacy.

One of the most prominent examples is the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which came into effect in January 2020. The law grants Californians more control over their personal information by giving them the right to know what data businesses collect, who they share it with, and if desired, they can delete it. Additionally, the CCPA allows consumers to opt out of selling personal information to third parties.

Several states have looked to California’s lead and are creating privacy legislation. Virginia, for instance, passed the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA) in March 2021, adding yet another layer of privacy protection for its citizens. Similar to the CCPA, the VCDPA gives Virginians more control over their data, offering transparency, access, deletion, and opt-out rights.

Apple’s privacy-focused updates

Marketers continue to face new challenges with Apple’s privacy-focused updates. The MPP (Mail Privacy Protection) feature, introduced in 2021, serves as one example. MPP uses a bot to open incoming emails as soon as they arrive in the recipient’s inbox. This method saves user privacy by hiding IP addresses and preventing open rates from exposing the recipient’s location or tracking their online activity.

In addition to MPP, Apple’s recent iOS 17 privacy updates add another layer of protection for users. These updates have been implemented to safeguard user data and privacy, making it increasingly difficult for marketers to track and measure engagement through traditional methods. For instance, iOS 17 features Link Tracking Protection, which automatically removes tracking parameters from messages, mail, and links, complicating the process of linking an interaction to a specific user.

Despite these challenges, you don’t need to panic. Link tracking remains a useful tool and metric, with only specific link types for certain user cases being affected. For example, Dotdigital customers are expected to see less than a 1% impact on the data they gather from link tracking. By staying informed and adapting to these changes, you can be an ethical marketer and protect your audience’s privacy.

Best practices for responsible data collection

Customers can feel limited when collecting data. If they don’t consent to data collection, their overall experience will be lessened. However, if you’re open and transparent about what data you want and why you want it, you’ll build a relationship based on honesty and integrity. Here are some ways to be ethical when collecting or using personal data: 

  1. Use consent management tools: Don’t leave your customers guessing about the data you’re collecting. Use our consent insight feature at the point of sign-up. With this, you can be transparent about the data you collect, and how it will be used, and offer a fair and easy way for customers to provide (or withhold) their consent.
  2. Build a preference center: Show your customers you respect their choices by providing an easily accessible preference center. Let them easily add or remove information, and include it in every email you send. 
  3. Include a double opt-in: Double opt-in ensures that marketing lists are accurate and high-quality. Make it a standard for any channel you use and your customer engagement will improve.
  4. Offer alternative channels: Different customers have different communication preferences. While some prefer emails, others prefer SMS or WhatsApp. Stick to their preferences by giving them the option to choose their favorite channel to ensure an optimal customer experience. 
  5. Communicate the benefits: Help your customers understand how sharing their data can improve their experience with your brand. Are you offering exclusive deals? Tailoring content to their interests? Let them know what’s in it for them, and they’ll share willingly. Transparency is key. 

How to build trust and transparency

Trust is an important part of being a responsible marketer. Trust is no longer just a nice to have, it’s a necessity. Customers are more aware than ever of the potential risks associated with sharing personal information online. By establishing trust with your customers, you can reassure them that their data will be handled responsibly. This not only helps to build a positive reputation for your company but also ensures that customers feel safe and secure when interacting with you. 

Here are ways to build trust and transparency:

  1. Collect zero and first-party data: To create trust and show respect for privacy, focus on collecting zero-party data by asking customers to share information via a survey or sign-up form. Also, gather first-party data from your customers’ direct actions, like website visits or social media engagements. 
  2. Use data protection tools: Keep customer information safe by using encryption, secure storage systems, two-factor authentication, and safe data transfer methods. This will protect data from breaches. 
  3. Educate your team: Get your team involved in a workshop or training so they can understand data privacy rules and best practices for protecting customer information.
  4. Appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO): Have a dedicated person, a DPO, in charge of ensuring your company follows data privacy rules. They will also be the main contact between your company and the official authorities.
  5. Regularly check your practices: Review how your company handles data privacy. Look for any weak spots and fix them to keep your practices up-to-date and effective.

Key considerations for marketers

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your data is being collected almost constantly. Regulatory breaches, brands, and buying and selling customers’ data have led to an ethical conundrum for marketers.

To tackle these ethical challenges head-on, consider the following concerns when collecting and using customer data. This will make your decisions more responsible and help maintain the trust of your customers:

  1. Privacy invasion: It’s not right to take personal or sensitive information without your customers’ permission.  This could make them uneasy about their privacy and potentially put your brand at risk of legal consequences.
  2. Data security: You have a responsibility to protect your customer’s data. Data breaches can lead to financial losses and damage the reputation of both your customers and your business.
  3. Informed consent: Your customers should be clearly informed about the information being collected, its intended use, and the reasons for it. Transparency goes a long way in building trust.
  4. Data minimization: Keep it simple, focus on collecting only what’s necessary, rather than keeping extra data. This approach reduces risks and shows respect for your customers’ privacy.
  5. Unwanted communications: It’s not okay to use customer data to send emails, text messages, or make calls without their permission. Doing this can invade their privacy and might even break privacy laws.
  6. Unfair targeting practices: Avoid using personal information like gender, race, or disability to unfairly exclude groups. This can lead to discrimination and unequal treatment.
  7. Misuse of data: Hold off on using customer data without permission. These actions are not only unethical but can also break down customer trust. Marketers have a responsibility to make sure any third parties they work with handle data properly.
  8. Accuracy of data: Double-check and keep customer data accurate, current, and up-to-date. When you use incorrect information it can lead to a negative customer experience.

By sticking to these guidelines, not only will you reduce risk when collecting data, but you’ll also create an environment where your customers feel valued and respected. When your audience knows their privacy is a top priority, you’ll establish a strong foundation of trust that paves the way for more meaningful and long-lasting relationships. In turn, your marketing efforts will flourish as your customers reward you with their loyalty, positive word-of-mouth, and a genuine appreciation for your brand’s commitment to ethical practices.

Future-proof your marketing with Dotdigital

As a marketer, you should use a marketing platform that values data protection and customer trust is essential. Dotdigital, an ISO 27701-certified customer experience and data platform (CXDP), equips you with the tools to stay ahead of the curve and deliver personalized customer experiences. By using these best practices, you’ll stay compliant with data privacy regulations and grow stronger relationships with your audience.

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