Where do marketers draw the line on data targeting as privacy concerns grow?

Ever since revelations surfaced that data from an estimated 87 million Facebook users were passed on to research firm Cambridge Analytica, nervous marketers are wondering how to reduce their chance of running afoul of regulators, consumers and privacy advocates, including by minimizing their exposure to data that is typically used for creating personalized experiences.

Despite the promises of data to enhance marketing, embracing information gathered online about consumers has come with a lot of headaches for marketers, a fact causing some to view data as one of the most difficult tasks they need to master. The impending May 25 GDPR deadline and Facebook’s data scandal have only heightened marketers’ concerns while also raising the possibility that stricter permission requirements could mean less access to data.

In this environment, marketers seeking a “minimum viable” data set should carefully consider how targeted they want to be and how important new customer acquisition is to them. While consumers increasingly demand personalization, which requires data, there are concerns that a brand might overstep by being so personalized that consumers wonder if they’re being spied upon. There is evidence that consumers already don’t trust brands with their personal information, so getting data right is important.

“Anytime something like this happens, there’s this rush and knee-jerk reaction that all tracking is bad and we shouldn’t be using it,” Stephen Boidock, director of marketing and business development at Austin, Tex.-based Drumroll told Marketing Dive. “That’s throwing the baby out with the bath water.

“Then you look at it and realize some of our best experiences come from tracking,” he added, citing recommendation engines on services like Spotify or the ability of Netflix to let users come back to a program at the exact moment they’d stopped watching. “The big question is whether there’s anything we’re using right now that’s going to be broken by the removal of certain permissions.”

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