What the Spice Girls can teach you about the intersection of privacy and business.
A preference center can help you fine-tune your marketing, get compliant with privacy regulations, and build customer trust. So why don’t you have one?
I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you a try, but if you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye
When, how, and how often to contact your users is the magic formula businesses have been trying to crack for years without realizing the answer was right in front of them the whole time: let your customers tell you.
New privacy regulations are forcing companies to battle these same types of questions. What data can I collect from my users? How much do I need to tell them? Instead of hoping to find a silver algorithm bullet, just ask your users.
Consider the following:
- 79% of Americans are concerned about how their data is being used by companies
- 84% of consumers say they want more control over how their data is being used
- 48% of consumers have stopped buying from a company over privacy concerns
There is a clear through-line between how people feel about data privacy and how they act as consumers. If you don’t let your users tell you what they really (really) want, they’ll kick you to the curb.
Now you know how I feel! Say you can handle my [data]? Are you for real?
Like Sporty and Baby Spice say—saying you know how your consumers feel and backing it up are two very different things. Building a preference center puts your money where your mouth is.
A preference center is a dedicated page in your app or on your website that allows consumers to tell you:
- What information they are okay with you collecting
- What they will allow you to do with that information
- How often you can contact them
- Correct the data you’ve collected about them if it’s wrong
Creating a preference center requires an investment of your time and resources, but it pays off in a big way. More than 40% of companies with strong privacy programs see benefits at least twice that of their privacy spend. A preference center will:
- Help you be compliant with existing and proposed privacy regulations like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), and Virginia’s Consumer Data Protection Act
- Improve your ability to build accurate, real-time data sets by detoxing your data
- Establish your reputation as a leader in consumer protection and data privacy
- Protect against costly data breaches
So, how do you build a preference center? It’s easier than you think.
Now don’t go wasting my precious time. Get your act together and we’ll be just fine.
It’s possible to build a responsive, user-friendly preference center regardless of how big your company and budget are. Here are three critical steps for a privacy program that gives consumers what they really (really) want.
1. Create a data inventory
Two important points:
- You can’t tell your users what types of data you are collecting and what you’re doing with it if you don’t know what data you have.
- The days of collecting anything and everything about your users are long gone, thanks to increasingly robust privacy regulations.
A data inventory is a single-source-of-truth record of all your data assets that allows you to track a data record’s full lifecycle through your system. It tells you what you’re collecting, how and why you’re collecting it, and where you’re storing it.
In short, it’s the most valuable thing you can do to improve your privacy program.
It can give you pinpoint clarity into your users because it forces you to sit down and figure out what information your operation actually needs to function.
Getting rid of the extra stuff means that even though you may have less data, what you have is more useful.
2. Be transparent & set expectations
Once you know what you’re collecting and why, you’re ready to revamp your privacy notice.
Ditch your dense legalese. Be straightforward about why you need/want it and how having it will build a better user experience, and then place your new notice prominently on your homepage and in your preference center.
One note about your preference center—it should be a single page with easy-to-use opt-out or opt-in buttons. Make it clean and simple for a quality user experience
3. Sell it! (Your work, not the data)
Doing all this work won’t do much good if people don’t know you’ve done it. Make a marketing push that tells your users all about how you built this amazing preference center just for them. Drill messaging that demonstrates your commitment to privacy, and you’ll build up priceless reservoirs of consumer trust.
4. Make their choices meaningful
When it comes to preference centers, it’s time to think beyond the unsubscribe button. Yes, you should let them unsubscribe, but preference centers are more than that. Give your customers real choices in how they interact with you:
- Do they want emails? How often? And what kind?
- Would they like to get SMS messages instead of emails?
- Direct mail or in-person solicitation? Why not!
When you let them dictate the terms of engagement, you’ll get more useful information from them while establishing brand loyalty.
You have got to give
When done well, privacy goes beyond regulations and cookie banners. It establishes trust with consumers because it recognizes that they’re people, not data sets. They have preferences and needs of their own.
Using a preference center may seem like a small thing, but it tells your customers that you care about what they want out of the relationship.
And in the immortal words of the Spice Girls, that kind of friendship never ends.