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Marketers proactive about privacy will be rewarded

May 26, 2011

Retailers operating in the mobile space need to take consumers’ privacy concerns seriously or they risk a backlash from customers as well as the legal community.

This was one of the takeaways from “Benchmarking 125 Mcommerce Sites and Apps across 13 Retail Categories,” a Mobile Commerce Daily webinar sponsored by TRUSTe that ran earlier this week. TRUSTe teamed up with Harris Interactive to survey 1,000 adults about their mobile usage with an eye toward better understanding some of the roadblocks that retailers face with regard to privacy.

“Retailers need to think strategically about privacy,” said Janet Jaiswal, product manager and senior director at TRUSTe, San Francisco. “You want to make sure you stay ahead of trends to enhance the mobile experience, but you want to think about privacy and some of the pending legislation.

“The last thing any of us want is to be regulated and by leading by example and being proactive with regard to customer privacy, it should help address some of the concerns,” she said.

The survey showed that while mobile users are comfortable sharing a user name, they get more uncomfortable as an app starts asking questions about age or gender.

Eighty-five percent of users restrict at least some type of information sharing on mobile apps, with 65 percent comfortable sharing a username or password but only 33 percent comfortable sharing their age or gender.

Better data collection practices
Behavioral tracking is another area of concern for consumers, with 85 percent wanting the option to opt-out of targeted mobile ads.

In addition, 74 percent of users are not comfortable with the idea of advertisers tracking their data for targeting purposes.

“There is a way to collect all that information, but it has to be done smartly and right,” Ms. Jaiswal said.

The executive pointed to several key security areas that retailers need to overcome.

“Users want to feel like you are taking their security seriously,” Ms. Jaiswal said. “If they don’t feel that, they are more likely to turn to your competitor.”

The first step is to find a secure mobile commerce platform provider that offers SSL-encrypted transaction support and alternative payments such as PayPal and Amazon’s payment system.

“Because PayPal and Amazon are optimized for mobile, users are able to quickly complete their transactions,” Ms. Jaiswal said. “Which is what it is all about – if users can transact quickly, they will reward you for it.”

Next, retailers should be sure to only ask for information that they absolutely need. This means waiting until a trusted retailer-customer relationship has been established before collecting extra information.

“It’s really tempting to ask for all sorts of juicy information, but if  users don’t know you, they tend to hesitate and you may lose them,” Ms. Jaiswal said.

Sharing not always good
When it comes to geo-location information, be sure to ask for permission before collecting this information and explain why you are collecting it.

“This is one of the pieces of information that users are very sensitive to, so ask for it first,” Ms. Jaiswal said.

It is OK to collect behavioral information as long as the information is being used to enhance a service being provided to customers.

However, retailers should not share the information with another party unless they need it to support the primary service that they  provide. They should obtain users’ permission before collecting information that will be used by a third party.

Retailers should offer users the ability to opt-out of mobile ad targeting since 85 percent of consumers want to be able to opt-in or out of these ads.

“If you respect customers, they’ll also feel better about you,” Ms. Jaiswal said.

It is also important for retailers to provide transparency and choice, with 98 percent of consumers believing it is important for mobile apps to provide easy access to controls for collecting and sharing personal information.

“If you have some of these best practices built-in, take credit for it,” Ms. Jaiswal said. “Tell users over and over again that they can trust you and that you’re going to give them a great experience.

“Users reward sites that respect their privacy,” she said.

Please click here to access the archived recording of the May 24 webinar, “Benchmarking 125 Mcommerce Sites and Apps across 13 Retail Categories.”

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