Your customers value data privacy immensely. It is time to make it a core business value

Your customers value data privacy immensely. It is time to make it a core business value ...

Consumers will reward businesses that make data stewardship a primary goal, according to the latest survey.

Finding common ground on issues can be difficult. Ask a roomful of people if they truly appreciate diversity and inclusion, and only half will raise their hands. Ask them if they truly care about the environment, and only 55% will agree that they do.

Ask about data privacy, and you'll find far more agreement. According to a recent study by MAGNA Media Trials and Ketch, a remarkable 74% of people now consider data privacy to be their top concern. It is more valued than equality, sustainability, or any other ethical issue.

In current opinion polling, this degree of consensus is almost unheard of. It's a clue that today's consumers appreciate data privacy, and that businesses must take privacy seriously, not just because it's a legal obligation, but because it's a core value for them.

Consumers have little interest in the regulatory fine print, yet over three-quarters of people have never heard of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), while 9 out of 10 haven't the foggiest idea what the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA) is.

Consumers do notice if regulators penalize your business for failing to follow the rules. It's also a table stakes: It can be your starting point, but it's not enough to convince consumers that your organization can depend on them to take care of their data.

What can businesses do to win customers' trust? The key is to look beyond compliance, and look for ways to communicate transparently, give consumers meaningful and ongoing control over their data, and make data stewardship a core part of your brand.

Three key takeaways from the study:

People are concerned about how businesses deal with data.

Most consumers believe that organizations aren't currently doing enough to keep their data safe. More than four-fifths of consumers are concerned about how their data is used, and just 5% have no major concerns about how organizations use their data.

Consumers think companies are routinely misuse their data, and only 21% of consumers are confident that their data is only used for authorized purposes. It's also that consumers believe companies are actively breaking data collecting agreements.

Consumers' fears of powerlessness are reflected in almost 6 out of 10 consumers, who say they don't know where their data goes once it's been shared, and two-thirds feel they have little control over how their data is used. From there, trust is eroded.

2. People understand the value of collaborating with businesses in terms of data.

Consumers are keen to protect their privacy, yet they are also willing and even eager to share their data. Sound counterintuitive? The truth is that consumers understand that by consenting to their data's use, they get access to things they want, from more powerful appliances to personalized internet experiences.

More than four-fifths of consumers believe they can benefit from sharing their data — and, paradoxically, they don't want companies to collect more data. What people want, instead, is for companies to be strict about protecting the data they share, and transparent about what's being collected and why. They want meaningful opportunities to opt out of data collection or change their mind and revoke consent after the data is collected.

Consumers perceive data sharing as a value-added transaction. They want to keep an edge over that exchange, but if you give them the security and agency they desire, they'll give you the data you need.

3. Top-line growth is fueled by responsible data practices.

Consumers are willing to reward those who do this well. Nearly 9 out of 10 customers believe strong data privacy policies will improve their relationship with a company, and one-third would tell their friends about companies with high privacy policies.

Revenue benefits from data stewardship. Nearly a quarter of consumers think they'd buy from a business that takes data privacy very seriously, and 15% would pay more for those goods or services.

Almost half of Americans are willing to pay extra for environmentally friendly goods. Considering the scope of green marketing efforts and the relative lack of consumer-facing messaging on data stewardship, it's clear that there's plenty of opportunity for stronger privacy policies to boost business profits.

Respect people's data dignity, and you'll be rewarded for it.

Brands invest enormous amounts of time, energy, and money in areas such as sustainable marketing, diversity initiatives, and ethical hiring practices. They do so not just because they are important to their customers, but because they believe these issues are important to them.

According to the Magna/Ketch study, effective data stewardship should be at the top of business' list of priorities. Your customers are speaking loud and clear, and they are expressing their concern about how their data is handled — and they are willing to reward companies that share their values and respect their privacy.

Consumers will reward brands that follow ethical data standards, with 23% more purchase intent in the United States and 28% more in the United Kingdom.

What does it mean to have responsible data practices? As a start, consider actively deleting data when it’s no longer required, and providing customers meaningful visibility into what you’re doing with data and why you’re collecting it.

Companies that fail to fulfill their roles as data custodians will find that their customers simply withdraw from their services or instead engage in other, more ethical companies.

Bad privacy practices aren't just harmful to consumers, they're also harmful to businesses. To keep data flowing and enable innovation and growth in the new data economy, businesses must step up and find privacy solutions that transcend regulatory compliance. It's time to consider privacy as a top strategic goal — and discover new methods to achieve engaged, transparent, and robust data stewardship.

Jonathan Joseph is the head of Ketch's solutions and marketing activities.

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