hidden danger

There’s no doubt that data is the new currency in marketing: All of the data consumers shed as they go about their digital lives can be incredibly valuable to brands under the right circumstances.

But as today’s marketers race to collect more data than ever in their efforts to target consumers through personalized campaigns, they risk disappointing their customers when that data isn’t used to build trust — or even worse —  when they violate that trust by collecting sensitive, personal data without a plan in place to protect it. 

Protect Your Customers 

Consumers give up personal data constantly. Sometimes they’re aware of it — when they sign up for mailing lists and fill out forms on a site, for instance — and sometimes they’re unaware, like when they visit a site with cookies enabled or forget to use a proxy IP to hide their locations.

When so much data is there for the taking, it’s up to marketers to step up and protect both themselves and their customers, even if it means choosing not to solicit information.

Avoid These Data-Collection Pitfalls

Here are four times when collecting customer data is the wrong move:

1. You’re collecting data just because you can 

Data should always have an earmarked purpose to prevent over-collection or misuse. Marketers should determine what aspects of the customer experience will be most effective to personalize, what insights they’ll need to create the necessary segmentations and finally, what data must be collected to execute those strategies. 

Bear in mind that collecting and storing too much data can actually confuse your personalization strategy.  Not only are you wasting time determining what’s relevant and what’s not, you’re working harder to discern meaningful patterns and trends and rule out data artifacts.

2. You’re not returning enough value to the customer to justify the effort 

Consumers must trust your brand before they’ll willingly give up key pieces of identifying information about themselves and whether they realize it or not, they want to see some return on that investment in the form of better, more personalized service.

Filling out forms or signing up for email lists costs your customers time and effort and their trust in you will erode if they’re not seeing these interactions pay off. For example, if you ask your customers to enter a location each time they visit your site — even after you’ve already collected their street addresses — or you continue to send out bulk emails, they will quickly perceive a lack of value and move on. 

3. You don’t have a solid data protection and storage plan in place 

Marketers need to determine how much data they’re going to keep on file, for how long and what protocols need to be put in place to secure it. The fastest way to lose your customers’ trust is to leave the information they’ve given you open to vulnerabilities, no matter how small. Data is a perishable asset and should be treated as such. Creating transparency around how data is being used is something to strongly consider when handling any type of customer information. 

4. You don’t have company policies in place governing the use of data

When customers turn identifying information about themselves over to a brand, that brand must act as a responsible steward of it and not use it for any unsanctioned purposes. If  your brand’s industry doesn’t already regulate this area, your company must put guidelines in place to govern the proper uses, collection methods and disclaimers for your customer information. 

Win-Win Data Collection 

In short, collecting the right data on your consumers is a win-win for your company and its customers: A disciplined data-collection effort will add value and personalization for your brand, while knowing what data not to collect will enhance your company’s credibility over the long haul.