Over the last decade or so, consumers have developed a complicated relationship with technology and privacy. On the one hand, data and technology have made it easier to provide personalized online experiences. However, people are becoming more and more concerned about privacy.

Business owners and marketers often find themselves walking a fine a line to give consumers the personalization and privacy they want. A recently released study can help business owners and marketers find balance between privacy and personalization.

A survey from Virent shows the nature of the conflict. According to the study's findings, of the more than 24,000 consumers surveyed, 80 percent said they like services that are personalized to their needs. However, such a personalization requires businesses to use customer data, but consumers are wary of the way their private information is stored.

According to the Virent survey, 89 percent of consumers also want to know how companies keep their personal information secure, and 86 percent insist that they should know when their data is passed on to third parties.

"Companies have a difficult balancing act to negotiate between security, transparency and a personalized experience. It's something that organizations across all sectors have to get right or risk losing valuable customers," said Ryan Hollenbeck Verint SVP global marketing and customer experience program executive sponsor. "Today's brands must work to ensure greater transparency over the use of customer data and build trust and confidence in this increasingly challenging environment."

The need to protect customer data and reassure consumers about the way their data is handled is something that many business owners and marketers were aware of before the study even started.More than 11,000 businesses were represented among the survey respondents, and of these, 94 percent said it is important that their customers be reassured their data is secure and 96 percent understand they need to alert customers if their data is to be passed on to third parties.

When four out of five or nine out of 10 consumers feel a certain way about something, business owners have little choice but do their best to meet consumer expectations. In the case of data and privacy, it means taking efforts to use technology properly and thinking carefully about how consumers will feel about the ways their data is being used.

It's important to keep in mind that just because technology makes something possible doesn't mean it's something a business should do. There are a lot of examples of businesses using data in new ways that, while technically amazing, turn away customers by being to intrusive. Facebook seems to find itself in such a situation every few months or so.

And in other cases, business owners and consumers alike are unaware of the potential privacy issues until they are exploited by others. To illustrate, Amazon is currently facing a situation where the data from their always-listening Echo product is being sought for a criminal investigation. To technology can be a double-edged sword for retailers and marketers, something the researchers at Virent also commented on.

"It comes down to getting the basics right, using technology and analytics to better understand what's really on the minds of customers, and then working to help ensure the right resources are in place to address evolving needs and requirements," said Marije Gould, Verint VP, EMEA marketing, according to media reports.

Business owner and marketers find themselves at an interesting crossroads in history. There has never before been a time when information about consumers was so easy to obtain and so personal that businesses needed to be this concerned about privacy issues. But now that we are in such a time, retailers need to act accordingly so their businesses can survive into the future.

For more research on online marketing, read this recent article on the importance of accurate content for online retailers.

Published on: Mar 13, 2017