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Online Privacy & Security: Earning their Trust

Privacy and Security are not the same things but they are so closely related in the minds of most consumers they might as well be.

Privacy essentially means I don’t want you to know who I am and/or what I am doing. Security means when I do choose to share that information with you I want you to protect it and I don’t want you to share it with anyone else.

A Harris Interactive 2014 study reveals how closely intertwined these concepts are in consumer minds. For example, online shopping is the #1 area of “privacy” concern. In this instance, does the respondent care that you know they are looking for a particular item (maybe, depending on the item) or is their concern that their credit card data may be taken from your site? 

Additionally, of the 92% of respondents who registered some level of concern about their online privacy, nearly 6 out of 10 are fearful of how businesses share their information and almost half are concerned about how businesses track their online behavior. They are less fearful of government activities in these areas.

No doubt these sentiments are fueled by the continuing fallout from the hacking of 40 million Target customer accounts in late 2013, and the fact that consumers are highly aware of how and when their information is shared by businesses (list rental and re-targeting by shopping sites being 2 of the more common activities). They also have virtually no awareness of how the government may or may not be tracking them or their activities.

One bright spot revealed in the study is that 3 out of 4 consumers are likely to look for privacy certifications and seals to address their privacy concerns. This is good news. It provides you with an opportunity to allay any expressed or unexpressed concerns your customers may have around what you are doing with their information, and how you are keeping it secure.

With the understanding that we all have to swim in the same pool when it comes to consumers perceptions, there are some things we can do as marketers to help reduce our customers overt or underlying anxiety.

  • In addition to the legalese that is no doubt contained within your privacy policy, create a layman’s version that states in clear English how you do and don’t use their information. If you don’t allow or conduct retargeting tell them; if you don’t rent their names to 3rd parties let them know, etc…
  • A/B test your landing page (see my blog on landing page testing for more ideas)
    • security seal on the top of the order page
    • link to your privacy policy
    • 800# as an alternative method
    • Introduce Paypal or another method that allows payment without credit card information needing to be entered.
  • Include a short restatement in the order confirmations (web and email) of how their information is and isn’t used.
  • If you update your privacy or security policies, email your customers and prospects and let them know what you’ve done to improve these areas.
  • Allow a channel for people to express their concerns – info@, webmaster@ don’t meet that standard. Privacy@ is better.