The Digital Golden Rule: Treat People Online As You’d Treat Them Offline

Patrick Salyer

I was chatting with my colleague Johann the other day, and we were trying to define what “consent” truly means. During that conversation, he equated online consent to the in-store shopping experience, explaining how strange it would be to walk into a store that you’ve never previously visited and discover that the sales associate already has your measurements and knows your name. I imagine I’m not the only person who would hightail it out of that location and never look back.

With stories of privacy breaches dominating the headlines, it’s hard not to think about your own personal identity and what information is available to corporations out there.

For many, the Cambridge Analytica case brought to light some of the unsatisfactory – or even rather creepy – practices businesses sometimes employ to target consumers using the wares offered by third-party data brokers. These brokers often build and then hawk stagnant customer profiles that are not earned and that are often inaccurate.

So what does this mean for brands and organizations that rely on customer data for business success? Is that a thing of the past? How do these companies execute personalized marketing without “creeping out” their customers?

Here’s a few things they can keep in mind:

Explain how data will improve CX

Data today needs to be gathered from a first-party relationship, and should also provide a direct benefit to the customer for sharing it.

Companies need to make a case to customers explaining why they need to gather their data, and how doing so will improve their overall experience. If a customer can see a benefit from sharing information, they will be more apt to do so.

For instance, I have three daughters, I enjoy surfing, and I am always down for a trip. If a travel website wanted to gather data on my interests to send me recommendations for cool family-friendly destinations and surf spots, I’d fork it over in a heartbeat! Simply said, make my life easier and better and I’m willing to work with you.

Allow consumers to decide what data is used

It’s essential that consumers have a say in what personal data is gathered about them. They should be able to define exactly what type of information they provide and be able to modify those permissions at any point.

I imagine many consumers would be surprised by the amount of data they are currently giving to businesses. Things like a phone’s geolocation capabilities or an individual’s payment methods can go a long way in building a profile. By offering more transparency about what data is being pulled, and giving consumers control over their preferences for marketing communications and other permission-based marketing activities, companies are empowered to use the data they have responsibly.

Allow consumers to decide how the data is used

Another piece of the puzzle is considering how to arm consumers with control to determine how an organization uses their data.

In some cases, an individual may feel comfortable sharing personal information with a company in an effort to improve their customer experience, but would rather that they not be bombarded with spam as a result. By providing customers self-service options for managing their consent and preference settings, companies can ensure they aren’t crossing any lines or using data in ways that may be misinterpreted as inappropriate.

The digital golden rule: Be kind and keep your (customer’s) secrets

While the evolving landscape of consumer privacy and data protection can often be confusing, I suggest that business leaders take a step back and consider the big picture of how responsible data management and usage provides the opportunity to build more meaningful customer relationships.

To end where we began, the Digital Golden Rule is just as important in cyberspace as the real one: Treat others (especially your customers) as you’d like to be treated.

And, if you haven’t already, check out the SAP Hybris CX Show here and on iTunes. We’d love to hear what you think!

Customer trust is critical, and so is assuring compliance with data privacy laws like GDPR. Learn more here

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce.