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How Data Privacy is Evolving and What It Means for Brands

As consumers become more privacy-conscious, brands must commit to protecting consumer data, proving transparency and trustworthiness.

Data privacy is the topic of the year.

The Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal has raised important questions about how consumer data is being protected. This, and the looming EU GDPR initiative, is putting further pressure on businesses to be more responsible, more accountable and more transparent.

These growing concerns and changing policies are front of mind for every brand and marketing professional globally, and for good reason. Our latest research shows consumers are changing the way they think about their data.

How Consumer Attitudes are Changing

1. They’re more privacy-conscious.

25% of online consumers are worried about the internet eroding their personal privacy. This is a figure that has increased from just 18% in 2013.

There are also concerns around the corporate use of consumer data. Globally, over 1 in 4 internet users strongly agree with the statement “I worry about how my personal data is being used by companies”.

2. They’re using a number of tools to protect their privacy.

These concerns are inspiring action. In a bid to reclaim control, the most popular activity among today’s consumers is deleting cookies.  46% of consumers deleted cookies last month. This prevents businesses from collecting their browsing information, shielding their digital footprint.

But this isn’t the only tool consumers are reaching for to protect their privacy. More than 1 in 4 internet users are getting online via Virtual Private Networks (VPN), with one third doing so for more anonymity.

How Brands Should Measure Up

These evolving trends and shifting attitudes highlight the need for brands to follow suit. It signifies a growing need for businesses to prove their dedication to protecting the privacy of their consumers, while at the same time giving them the customer experience they’ve come to expect. Here’s how to do it.

1. Demonstrate a commitment to security.

Only 51% of businesses have an accurate inventory of where personal data for employees and customers is collected, transmitted, and stored. That’s according to the 2018 Global State of Information Security Survey (GSISS) – an ongoing study conducted by PWC, surveying 9,500 senior business and technology executives from 122 countries.

This relaxed approach to data security is no longer something consumers will accept. They’re being more vocal, taking action, and telling brands to prove their unwavering commitment to protecting their privacy.

Proving this commitment means taking extreme measures, not only to ensure strict compliance with new regulations, but to portray loyalty towards ethical data collection.

2. Choose your partners carefully.

More than ever, brands need to be careful about the partners they choose, especially when it comes to data providers. Third party consumer data is essential for businesses to gather in-depth research into their target audiences, enabling a more consumer-centric approach and empowering more strategic business decisions.

Robust consumer insight will tell them who they’re targeting, what tactics will work, and what channels are worth the investment. But the quality of this insight depends on how the research is conducted, and the data collected. That’s why methodology matters, and demanding visibility into this methodology, processes and management, matters even more.

GlobalWebIndex, for example, conducts a global survey that’s fully opt-in, leveraging a panel of 22 million consumers to give marketers a true representation of their target audience. But as every data provider takes a different approach, demanding visibility into this is vital.

3. Advertise strategically.

46% of consumers are now blocking ads online. The key reason behind the adoption of these tools is to avoid irrelevant, annoying and intrusive ads. This shows how consumer attitudes are changing in relation to digital advertising. They’re becoming more aware of how they’re being targeted online through the use of their data, and they’re not afraid to take action when it’s being 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. By using deep consumer research that’s trustworthy and specific to their target segments, it’s possible to put personalized marketing into practice, in the right way. This ensures you’re not targeting the wrong consumers with the wrong content, resulting in a greater ROI and avoiding a loss of favor, or any damage to a brand’s reputation.

4. Be transparent.

Transparency doesn’t only apply to data providers. As consumers are taking more control over their online experiences, transparent and authentic marketing is quickly becoming the only way forward for brands.

This doesn’t just mean being open and up front about why you’re collecting consumer data and how it’s being used. It means living and breathing an authentic brand message that’s 100% consumer-centric.

McDonald’s is one brand that has proven the value in being transparent. In a bid to dispel rumors and challenge perceptions around its produce and ingredients, McDonald’s Canada launched its “Our food. Your questions.” campaign. It offers customers a chance to publicly ask anything and gives McDonald’s the opportunity to stand behind its products.

Since its launch in 2014, it has garnered over 42,000 questions, with over 3.8 million visitors reading questions and answers on the food quality FAQ website. This shows how consumers appreciate, and respond to, brands that practice transparency in everything they do.

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