[Preview#13] About customers’ personal information

Consumers are becoming every day more and more privacy-sensitive and are worried regarding how their personal information is treated.

At the same time,dear Retailers, you are gathering more and more information about your customers, aren’t you? Online, offline (in-store), through loyalty-cards, etc.

I’d like to discuss this touchy subject: here you are seven “food-for-thought” topics in no particular order (and some valuable pointers).

Topic #1: …selling shoppers’ personal information to mass marketing companies?

As a matter of fact, selling your customers’ personal info to mass marketing companies is a terrible idea, even when you make a lot of money out of it.

Why? Because 100% customers consider it a betrayal – they provide their data exclusively to help you offer them a better service, and nothing else.

My pointer is, never, ever sell your customers’ personal info – be sure your customers will find out; on the contrary, show them how trustworthy you are (for instance, how you take care of their personal information – see also Topic #7) and – while we are at it – how you specifically/tangibly offer them a better service and an improved shopping-experience based on the information they trust you with.

Topic #2: …have a card-less loyalty programs in place?

Card-less loyalty programs identify customers through some personal information – typically name and zip-code – instead of using a plastic loyalty-card listing the shopper’s loyalty-Id.

Simple and effective, isn’t it?

Sure it is, and customers don’t mind too much telling their name and zip-code (or whatever) to the cashier at the checkout desk…

…but they hate with all their strength to share any personal info with the other people waiting in line.

Why don’t you just add a simple and effective “Please, stand behind this line for privacy” sticker on the floor three feet from the checkout desk?

Topic #3: …employing “Big Brother” analytics?

Inferring insights about your customers using advanced, “artificial-intelligent” algorithm can prove to be dangerously Orwellian…

If you infer that a customer is, for example, pregnant (her shopping-history shows that her diet bizarrely changed in the last few months), please avoid sending her mountains of discount-coupons for feeding-bottles and baby milk, she could get very nervous… …especially if you are right!

My pointer is, being a know-it-all can be a double-edge sword, in particular regarding the privacy of individuals.

By the way, I didn’t make up my pregnancy example: it really happened.

Topic #4: …making “opt-out” difficult?

Please make it quick and simple for your customers to remove their personal information from your data-bases (technically this is called “opt-out”).

Considering that online opt-out is typically just a matter of clicking on an “unsubscribe” link/button, offline opt-out (in-store, on the phone with some call-center agent, etc.) should be at least as quick and simple.

Topic #5: …irrelevant promotions?

Please don’t exasperate your customers by sending them promotions that are manifestly not pertinent.

For instance, I’m a man, therefore sending me promos about tampons is absolutely pointless… …and a little bit annoying.

My pointer is, please do your homework and segment your customers properly… …and, by the way, please avoid spamming them.

Topic #6: …cash/points and…?

Saving money is awesome, so offering customers cash/points in exchange for their personal information is the right thing to do – but it’s not the only one.

Do your best to think of ways also to:

  • provide valuable information (e.g. guides, FAQs, tutorials, etc.) to your loyal customers, because they are always eager to learn something new everyday
  • let your loyal shoppers save time – for example offer them priority checkout lanes to avoid queues: the less time they in line, the more time they spend with their families – and they truly appreciate it

Topic #7: …protecting customers’ personal info?

Last but absolutely not least, never, ever let hackers steal your customers’ personal information; put it into a safe within a safe within another safe.

My pointer is, data-security is very, very important and CEOs have been fired – I’m not kidding – for data-security breaches; therefore, never underestimate data-security.

It’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, but it is essential.

A couple of final, common sense, basic considerations to avoid a lot of trouble:

  • treat your customers’ personal information with care and respect
  • be transparent and tell your customers in simple terms what you do with their personal info and why

…that’s it!

Andy Cavallini




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