Are We Hypocrites on Privacy?

I have been carefully reading the terms and conditions and privacy policies of companies to which I subscribe more often, lately. I am concerned about with whom my data is shared and under what conditions. While I hold my vendors to high standards, have I let our company’s standards slip?

I have been carefully reading the terms and conditions and privacy policies of companies to which I subscribe more often, lately. I am concerned about with whom my data is shared and under what conditions. While I hold my vendors to high standards, have I let our company’s standards slip?

With great confidence I can say, “No, I have not,” but can you?

My sister wears a FitBit. She explained to me it reminded her to walk 10,000 steps per day, and also enabled her to track her fitness progress on their website. That sounds great, I thought—until I read their privacy policy, one with gaping black holes and ambiguous terms. A privacy policy I found so objectionable the benefits simply did not justify the means.

After shopping for nearly a year, I recently bought an HTC phone—the unlocked version, which enables me to control which apps are installed and what they share. Though Google is by no means setting the standard for privacy, I feel Google is reluctant to share my information with others and so those are the only third-party apps allowed—no Facebook, no Twitter, no games, no sharing of any kind.

So, here are two instances where a company’s privacy policy has changed not just my habits, but my buying decisions. This got me to thinking about how many marketers’ privacy policies have been written in such a manner as to be intentionally ambiguous, somewhat misleading, or downright dishonest in order to encourage people to subscribe. As you set about collecting subscriber names, what are your answers to these hard questions:

  • Is your privacy complete and up to date?
  • Is your privacy policy clear and honest?
  • Do you use your subscriber names ONLY in the way you have described?
  • If your company marketing practices have changed, does your policy reflect these changes?
  • Are you collecting, or have you collected, information you did not disclose?
  • Do others have access to what you proclaimed as private?
  • Have you been hacked?
  • Has an employee taken your data with them when they left the company?

Some of these answers have the air of intent, while others present you as the victim. But in both cases, it’s time to update your policies, and this can present a wonderful, welcomed opportunity for dialog with your subscribers.

We’ve all received of one of those seemingly nefarious letters, “We’ve Updated Our Privacy Policy,” so how about a new take on an old problem: “Good News! We’ve Updated Our Privacy Policy to Give You Even More Privacy!”

If you’ve spent the last few years collecting data about your subscribers and you’ve found you’re not using the vast majority of it—and let’s face it, the data shows we’re simply not—it’s time to delete it from your list. If you haven’t used it thus far, it’s out of date and useless to you going forward. Delete it and brag about it. Send a cheery note to your subscribers reminding them that while others are collecting more and more, you are collecting less and you’re intentionally deleting everything you have not found directly useful to how you interact with them today and not specifically covered in your privacy policy.

Send them to a link with the shortest, sweetest privacy policy they’ve read, for example:

Our Privacy policy

  • We have on file only your first name, last name, and email address.
  • We ask for nothing else.
  • We send you only emails you request.
  • We have nothing to share with others, and wouldn’t if they asked.
  • We won’t change this policy without prior notice – ever.

Thank you for being our customer.

– Sincerely,
Your Grateful Vendor

No, I’ve never actually seen a policy like this, but if I did, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase their wearables or buy their phone.

Forecasting a Cheery 2010 Holiday Shopping Season for Paid Search Campaigns

With the holidays fast approaching, news and economic trends relevant to this year’s holiday shopping season have been mixed, though generally favorable. A recent study by ChannelAdvisor revealed that 81 percent of shoppers plan to spend the same or more on holiday gifts this year. The study also found that more of that shopping will be conducted online.

With the holidays fast approaching, news and economic trends relevant to this year’s holiday shopping season have been mixed, though generally favorable. A recent study by ChannelAdvisor revealed that 81 percent of shoppers plan to spend the same or more on holiday gifts this year. The study also found that more of that shopping will be conducted online.

From a performance perspective, actively managed holiday paid search campaigns delivered impressive results during the 2009 holiday shopping season in comparison to the rest of the year. In 2010, these campaigns have already achieved strong year-to-date (YTD) growth. This strong YTD growth will likely continue into the fourth quarter, and Performics predicts this will net out to 15 percent year-over-year (YOY) growth for actively managed holiday paid search campaigns. The results could be even stronger for search advertisers who are able to make Q4 outshine the rest of the year like they did in 2009.

Either way, all signs point to growth for these campaigns, and marketers should keep the following opportunities in mind:

Continued emphasis on value. Free shipping and discounts have become standard as retailers continue to vie for cost-conscious consumers. Average order value is down 9 percent YTD according to a Performics Holiday Retail Group report, and this trend will likely continue into Q4. Providing offers on upsell or cross-sell products can help boost order totals and offset free shipping and other discounts merchants offer.

Delayed shopping as savvy consumers research and wait for late sales. The first two weeks in December 2009 saw sales increase by 27 percent compared to 2008, while Black Friday sales decreased 17 percent YOY. Sales during the last week of free standard shipping prior to Christmas also increased significantly in 2009. However, numbers may shift this year if consumers feel more confident with compelling sales already underway. The recently released Compete Holiday Insights survey found that 50 percent of consumers have already started holiday shopping.

Shoppers are reaching for their phones. Nearly half of adult smartphone owners younger than 25 will use their smartphones to shop this holiday season, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation and BIGresearch. An increasing share of overall clicks are coming from mobile — 6.7 percent in September, and projected to be greater than 10 percent within 12 months.

Improved efficiency of last-minute shopping. Consumer spending and cost per clicks dropped dramatically following the last week of free standard shipping prior to Christmas 2009. Active paid search advertisers can do more for less after Dec. 17.

Marketers looking to capitalize on these opportunities and improve holiday performance should consider the following recommendations:

  • follow best practices to actively manage campaigns and effectively respond to market forces;
  • offer aggressive promotions early to capture shoppers;
  • actively participate in the last week of free standard shipping prior to Christmas;
  • embrace mobile to ensure the channel’s increasing user base can find you when searching; and
  • continue active management of paid search beyond Dec. 17 to further boost efficiency.

By following shoppers’ changing behaviors this holiday season — and planning and executing campaigns accordingly — marketers can boost their odds of a jolly holiday.