Five issues about privacy and Customers’ personal information

Consumers are becoming every day more and more privacy-sensitive and are worried about how their personal information is treated; at the same time, Retailers are gathering more and more information about Shoppers – online, offline (in-store), through loyalty-cards, etc.

Something VERY bad can easily happen – I’m going to describe five issues we always need to think about:

Issue #1

Selling Shoppers’ personal information to mass marketing companies

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

Why? Because 100% customers consider it a betrayal – they provide their data exclusively to help us offer them a better service, and that’s it.

My point is, never, ever sell our Shoppers’ personal info – we can be absolutely sure that they will find out, somehow; on the contrary, let’s show them how trustworthy we are (for instance, how we take care of their personal information – see also Issue #5) and – while we are at it – how we tangibly offer them a better service and an improved shopping-experience based on the information they trust us with.


Employing “Big Brother” analytics

Inferring insights about our 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 upset.

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

Issue #3

Making “opt-out” difficult

Let’s do our best to make it quick and simple for our Customers to remove their personal information from our data-bases (technically this is an “opt-out”).

Considering that online opt-out is typically just a matter of clicking on some “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.

Issue #4

Offering irrelevant promotions

Again, let’s do whatever it takes not to exasperate our Customers by offering 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.

We have everything we need (data, algorithms and powerful computers) to segment our Customers properly.

Issue #5

Protecting Shoppers’ personal info

Last but absolutely not least, we MUST never, ever let hackers steal our Customers’ personal information; data-security is very, very important and CEOs have been fired – I’m not kidding – for data-security breaches.

Therefore, we must never underestimate data-security: it’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, but it is essential.

Andy Cavallini  –

PS: 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


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