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Talking Business: Striking the balance between privacy and personalisation

The personalisation technological revolution is gaining momentum but privacy compliance must not be forgotten, writes Samantha Livesey, partner at international law firm Pinsent Masons

New technologies offer retailers the ability to tailor customer engagement in innovative ways, fusing websites, mobile apps and bricks-and-mortar locations, to give customers a holistic shopping experience.

Exploiting personal data

As a result of these advances, customer data can be collected on a much greater scale than ever before and analysed to produce detailed profiles of customers and their preferences. While this data is a hugely valuable resource to retailers, you must ensure it is collected and used in compliance with the applicable data privacy laws. There is also the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) looming on the horizon and likely to be in force by 2018, which introduces a stricter compliance regime including a requirement to inform customers of the existence of profiling or automated decision making, and giving them the right to object to its use.

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Consent is crucial

Retailers should obtain customers’ freely given, informed and specific consent before sending marketing messages. Under the new GDPR silence, inactivity or pre-ticked boxes will not indicate consent. Start getting your database compliant now to ensure it is compliant for use in the future.

A layered approach

A layered approach to explaining what data is being collected and for what purposes allows retailers to break down the relevant information into stages to comply with fairness and transparency requirements. So for example, use a short privacy notice at the point data is collected (outlining the key facts), and link to a more detailed privacy policy.

The customer journey

There can be a public perception that large-scale personal data collection and analysis is ‘creepy’, which can be damaging to a retailer’s brand. Indeed, the Drapers Multichannel Report 2015 shows that many customers prefer not to give any personal data to retailers, so finding the right balance between data collection and reassuring customers as to its use is incredibly important.

The customer journey is a key concern when considering personalisation; the Multichannel Report 2015 shows customers favour functionality when deciding whether to divulge their information.

Achieving compliance that works seamlessly with a customer’s experience builds trust, minimises negative reactions and ensures customers are informed about how/why their personal data is being collected and processed, allowing retailers to embrace technology to drive business change.

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