Ubaid Zargar
Points of View

Are marketers equipped to target privacy-conscious consumers?

With major tech giants facing a global backlash on account of data privacy, users have become increasingly conscious of how their information is used. In a privacy-conscious digital world, are conventional marketing methods capable of targeting consumers? Here is what experts think.

Having sparked multiple conversations across the globe, data privacy has been a hot topic for a while now. With major companies like Google and Facebook falling in and out of controversies , the discussion has found its space within a multitude of legal and ethical court cases.

In 2019, Google admitted to listening in on private conversations via Google Assistant. A leak of 1,000 private conversations in the Dutch language by some of Google's associates to a Belgian news site further sparked speculations over Google's privacy policies. Recently, France fined Google with $57 million for breaching European Union privacy laws.

Facebook, on the other hand, has had its fair share of controversies over the years. For instance, the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that the political consulting firm was harvesting the data of Facebook users for political advertising. Last month, Brazil's Ministry of Justice announced that it had fined Facebook 6.6 million reais ($1.6 million) on account of improper sharing of user data. It is pertinent to mention here that the tech company was also slapped with a fine of $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission, forcing Facebook to change its privacy controls.

While the list of such controversies could go on and on, the discussion narrows down to one reality - digital users are becoming increasingly conscious of data privacy. Many leaderships across the globe have stepped in and formulated regulations to curb privacy concerns. India has recently entered the data privacy debate with the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, which aims to regulate collection, usage, transfer and disclosure of users' data.

These laws, while ensuring transparency across tech platforms, also encourage awareness about data privacy among users. But, what does this mean for brands which use these avenues to propel their marketing strategies? More importantly, is the contemporary marketing model equipped to target the 'privacy-conscious' consumer base? We reached out to industry experts to get their perspective.

Industry Speak:

Lucky Saini, vice president, digital and marketing solutions, Dentsu India Slingshot

Are marketers equipped to target privacy-conscious consumers?

With the evolution of technology, marketing models have evolved at a rapid pace too. There is no reason to think they will not evolve further to handle the privacy conscious consumer. The question to ask is how soon and what could be the impact in the interim on the field of personalised marketing. In essence, smart marketing is about creating user personas based on a variety of data sets and then serving personalised messages based on different user journeys. The intent was and will always be to move from a spam based marketing or carpet bombing model to a highly personalised model. While data privacy is a real and one of the biggest concerns for the consumer, it’s the way data is collected, handled and used that is at the core of the issue. Most consumers will not mind getting served a highly personalised coupon offer while walking into a store. So, use of data to delight customers on your own channels is on the rise and will continue to be. It’s the sharing of data with third party publishers and not being upfront about it that raises eyebrows.

The pace of data privacy changes has been so rapid that laws like GDPR and upcoming CCPA have caught the marketing community by surprise. Creating strong systems to store, manage and transfer data is both time and cost consuming. Most organisations are grappling with the implications of such laws and devoting time and resources to be compliant.

What marketers need to do and fast is :

  • Provide customers with assurance - display your certification and other security logos on your website, and create a separate page for your privacy policy.

  • Seek consent actively and not passively – signing up on general terms and conditions will not be enough. Active consent and purpose of data collection will have to be put out there.

  • Make sure you own and control your data by restricting its sale to third parties.

Vishal Chinchankar, chief digital officer, Madison Media Digital

Are marketers equipped to target privacy-conscious consumers?

Contemporary marketing strategies are typically used to build relationship with the consumer base, by identifying right cohorts and sharp targeting. Today, to a certain extent, this is quite established with large and matured advertisers. Permission marketing will be the next front that brands and marketers will have to take cognisance of, as India transforms into a data-rich economy. This is all the more reason marketers need to be extremely mindful of data privacy and data protection policies of the partner they choose, especially when it comes to choosing data partners.

Today’s consumers are highly aware of how they are being targeted online through the use of their data, and they are not afraid to take action when it is misused. To combat this, there’s an overarching need for brands to be more strategic in the way they advertise online, and more careful with the data they leverage.

Harikrishnan Pillai, chief executive officer and co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea

Are marketers equipped to target privacy-conscious consumers?

The marketing industry lives and breathes data. Data is enabling enterprises and individuals to arrive at actionable insights. While data is the new currency, there are also concerns specifically around the corporate use of consumer data. With growing concerns of data breaches, consumers have become more privacy-conscious and are using tools to protect their privacy. This evolving attitude highlights the need for business models to be equipped to target the privacy-conscious consumer. Contemporary marketing models need to prove their dedication to protect the privacy of their consumers, while at the same time, give them the customer experience they’ve come to expect. Marketing models are ensuring credibility about the partners they choose when it comes to data providers. Systems need to be developed where marketing models must be able to supply data upon request (data portability). In addition to this, data mapping, data inventory, updated privacy policies and contracts should be the focus of every model. This will profoundly impact the operation of contemporary marketing models to target a privacy-conscious consumer base.

Tushar Khakhar, first executive, AGENCY09

Are marketers equipped to target privacy-conscious consumers?

Privacy intrusive marketing will only damage the brand image further. It is important to maintain dignity to be in a positive mind space of the consumer. Consumers are already getting several notifications, messages, emails and calls on a frequent basis. It's imperative to focus on being more relevant than finding new ways to target or market the audience.

There are multiple marketing mediums available to practise hyper local marketing. Every click on digital is trackable and this makes it easy to remarket to the consumers. It's time for marketers to focus on consumer pull than push. Product innovation and service differentiation will help achieve this. When it comes to being equipped for targeting a privacy-conscious consumer base - is the industry ready? Not really.