These days, data breaches are an everyday occurrence. Companies collect volumes of data about their customers, from basic contact information to detailed financial history, demographics, buying patterns, and even lifestyle choices. Effectively this builds a very private digital footprint for each customer. When this footprint is leaked, it not only erodes the trust between consumers and the affected brand, but also erodes trust for all brands.
The latest marketing buzzwords call this a ‘post-breach era’ but I’d call it a post-trust era. We have watched the slow erosion of consumer trust for several years now. Forrester predicted that 2018 would mark the tipping point, calling it “a year of reckoning,” but here we are in 2019 and trust only continues to decline. The Edelman Trust Barometer claims that in the U.S., we saw the sharpest drop in consumer trust in history, bringing it to an all-time low.
Why is Consumer Trust Falling at Such a Rapid Rate?
Organizations have spent billions of dollars digitally transforming themselves to create faster, easier and more numerous access points for their customers to interact with their brand. And it’s worked. Consumers engage much more often with more personal data with brands today than ever before. For marketers, it’s a dream come true: More access equals more insights and more customer data recorded, enabling more personalized and customized customer experiences.
However, each touch-point comes with increased security risk and vulnerabilities. Prior to the digital transformation revolution, brands interacted much less frequently with their customers (for the sake of argument, let’s say once a month). But now, brands communicate daily (sometimes multiple times per day!) across multiple touch-points and multiple channels, collecting exponential amounts of data. This increases not only the opportunities for breaches, but the possibility for negative customer interactions with so much more private information known about an individual. An overabundance of those marvelous personalized interactions can make consumers feel invasive and uncomfortable at the risk in their digital footprint.
Trust is necessary to offset any negativity.
Brands have a tremendous responsibility to protect all the data they collect from their customers. Historically lack of vigilance on security has led to the start of many data breaches. For many years, the C-suite has treated information security as an expense to treat the basics of a regulatory compliance standard, not as an investment.
Today that organizational behavior just does not suffice. The stakes are much higher now; the size, frequency, and resulting consequences of recent data breaches have created a huge backlash in consumer sentiments. We feel the impact of this trust erosion in new legislation across the globe (GDPR, Castle Laws, etc.) designed to give consumers some power back with regards to their data. We also feel the impact in customer churn, brand abandonment poor Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) after a security breach. The ripple effects of data breaches signal the value of investing in security upfront; invest in the right cybersecurity infrastructure now or risk paying far more later.
It forces us as marketers to change the type of conversations we have with our customers.
What’s a Brand to Do?
How important is data security to your customers and your brand promise? If asked, surely every one of your customers would tell you it’s important. Most marketers are afraid to make security promises for fear of future data breaches. However, there’s a compelling argument that if you don’t address the issue up front, you are missing a critical conversation with your customers that could cost you their loyalty.
- Don’t fear the security conversation, embrace it. Brands like Apple are once again leading the privacy conversation. Apple’s new ad campaign address privacy issues head on. Executives may not need the exact stance as Apple, but as a marketer, you can identify the right tone and timing for a security conversation with your audience.
- Ask your customers about their security concerns and listen to their answers! Our digitally transformed world empowers us to engage in a two-way dialog with our audiences. Talk to them. Ask them their opinions on security – and more importantly, listen to their answers. Take their suggestions back to your product and development teams and incorporate it into your company’s DNA.
- Develop features and services that empower your customers to protect their own privacy. Today, banks offer credit monitoring, credit locking, fraud alerts, subscriptions to services that monitor the dark web for an entire family, etc. IoT devices have enabled people to see who is ringing the doorbell even when they are not home. Those doorbell recordings can now be shared through neighborhood watch sites to warn the community of incidents when they occur. These are all examples of innovation and evolution around security as a feature.
- Highlight all the different ways your company is protecting its customers data and privacy. Don’t assume your customers know that you take their privacy concerns seriously. Show them you care about their security concerns. Tell them and educate them about all the steps you are taking to protect them.
- Don’t whitewash security concerns. Be a champion for injecting security into the DNA of your organization – from product development to responsible data collection and storage, to the customer experience.
Regardless of your industry— from finance to retail to consumer goods to healthcare and beyond—there is a security discussion to be had with your customers. If you are not embracing the conversation, your competitors will, and you will be left behind.