For digital marketers, the benefit of collecting user data for advertising is clear. But most consumers have very little understanding of how and why their personal information is being used. In the past, customers might be easily persuaded by marketing messages that never explained how giving up their data might affect their online experience. 

But, as Google noted last week during Google Marketing Livestream 2021, privacy concerns among consumers are rising. 

In fact, 81 percent of consumers say that the risks of giving up their data outweigh the benefits. 

“People are no longer satisfied with the old way of doing things. They want more assurance that the bargain is working in their favor. They value their privacy more, and we are losing their trust.”

Jerry Dischler, VP & GM, Ads at Google

Advertisers can no longer rely on vague promises. They need to make an explicit and value-based case for why consumers should give up their personal information. This case must be anchored in fact, not just trust or reputation. 

Even if you’ve never been subjected to a data breach, your site visitors are likely suspicious, more so than ever before. 

Why Marketers Are Losing Consumer Trust

The issue of privacy is deeply personal to each person. It is not simply a matter of whether consumers get to keep their private information private. 

Consumers have a right to know what data companies collect on them and how they use it. 

Sometimes, companies make promises they cannot keep—for example, if they say they will protect your privacy but fail to take specific steps to follow through on that promise. 

But dishonest business practices are nothing new. So, what caused consumers to worry? 

The seemingly rapid shift in consumer trust issues might be partially due to Covid, as more people at home means more people spending time online, and more opportunities to give up data. 

But, large companies have also begun asking consumers for more and more data. And governments have started pushing back. It’s possible that the public nature of these battles has set off alarm bells with consumers.

In addition, as platforms grow, so do the sizes of data breaches. This means more consumers are impacted by data breaches, which leads to bigger conversations around privacy. 

A Recent History of Privacy Concerns  

Consumer privacy concerns related to electronic transmissions have been around for as long as the internet. 

As early as 1986, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act protected electronic communications from unauthorized access and use. 

The more recent shift in privacy concerns is correlated with several key events. 

February 2018: Under Armour Data Breach

A data breach to Under Armour’s fitness app, MyFitnessPal, led to 150 million consumer records being compromised. The breach is one of the largest on record. “‘Fitness trackers and apps like MyFitnessPal are fantastic tools that help people, but users must also be aware of the fact that these devices and apps act as ‘opt-in surveillance,’” Forrester security expert Jeff Pollard told CPO Magazine at the time. “‘Anyone with access to what the app collects also has access to your location, habits, and preferences – and in this case, that is now an attacker.’”

May 2018: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDRP) Implementation

The GDPR is an extensive piece of legislation that will change the way companies can collect, store, manage and use data in the European Union. As thousands of companies emailed their customers to inform them of the changes, the redundant emails became meme fodder for the general public. 

August 2019: Fortnite Data Breach Lawsuit

A class-action lawsuit was filed against Epic Games after a data breach from late 2018 enabled hackers to take over user accounts and purchase in-game currency. Hackers allegedly admitted to making thousands of British pounds per week during the breach. The case is ongoing. 

September 2020: The iOS 14 update 

The public chastisement from Facebook about Apple’s iOS 14 update brought to light how reliant advertisers are on user data. Few people came to the defense of advertisers. In fact, many consumers communicated a feeling of victory over advertisers. 

October 2020: The Oculus VR System Facebook Linking Requirement

When the Oculus Quest 2 was released, a major change put a damper on overwhelming support for the system. While the original Oculus could be used without a social media account, the updated system required users to have a Facebook account. As potential buyers pointed out, if Facebook suspends your account, the $300 Oculus essentially turns into a paperweight. The other worry among consumers was that the Oculus might post user activity to their Facebook wall.  

Use these Data Privacy Tools to Build Trust with Consumers

For an advertiser to convince users that their data is worth giving up, they need to disclose truthful, accurate, and relevant information. They’ll also need to protect user data. The tools below provide a starting point in building a website and experience that fosters trust with site visitors. 

Google Tag Manager 

How does Tag Manager help with consumer trust? You can use Tag Manager to:  

  • Track consent for tags.
  • Know which customers have opted-in or opted-out across browsers and devices. 
  • Comply with most global cookie laws and regulations surrounding the collection of user consent. 

Contact your Tag Manager administrator or web developer for details on configuring consent for your website and managing user consent within Tag Manager.

Privacy Policy Generators

While a generic privacy policy shouldn’t be relied upon for your website, a privacy policy is a requirement for advertising on most platforms. And the transparency it provides is invaluable for consumer trust. 

Shopify offers a privacy policy generator (you don’t have to be a Shopify customer to use it). 

WordPress also has its own plug-in, WP AutoTerms

Data Mapping Tools

Data Maps are the backbone of the data inventory. A data map describes how data flows through your website. Data maps help organizations understand (1) what data they are collecting from users, (2) how that data is being used, and (3) who has access to that data. By documenting the flow of information through your website, you’ll be able to ensure transparency with users. 

A cookie consent banner is a piece of code embedded onto a website used to ask permission before storing site visitor data. Annoying as banners and popups may be, these banners are required on websites in the European Union and a few other countries. But savvy marketers in the U.S. have adopted the same practices in anticipation of similar laws being passed domestically. 

Why You Must Prioritize Consumer Privacy in Your Marketing Campaigns

Taking steps to build trust with customers online is paramount for marketers, especially since consumer concerns about privacy are trending upward. As new legislation is implemented, marketers who adapt now will be better positioned for future regulations. Moreover, building customer trust will help your business thrive and survive. 

Prioritize transparency in all of your marketing efforts, from ads to landing pages. 

Your continued ability to deliver useful, relevant, and personalized ads to consumers depends on it.