Shoppers want privacy and personalization: can retailers deliver?

Article tagged with: Research

The May 2018 onset of GDPR – the European General Data Protection Regulation that caused such consternation among every data holder – may be a distant memory, but look for continued legal action to come to light as individuals and regulators strike back in instances where personal data was mistreated, clumsily handled, or negligently left vulnerable to theft by cyber attackers.

The issue of how to responsibly treat customer data is sharply in focus for every retailer, regardless of whether they’re located in Europe, because as we are reminded in 9 Trends Affecting Your Future, GDPR affects anyone who holds the data of a European customer, which could well be a US store, if you sell internationally. 

Customers – and not just those in Europe – are rightfully worried about what may become of their information if they share it with the wrong retailer, or if cyber attackers target that retailer and personal data is stolen. Yet customers are also hungry for personalization, which they can’t hope to receive from stores unless they share information about themselves.

Balancing personalization against data privacy

As we’ve said elsewhere, research shows customers are willing to give up some personal information – including food favorites, drink favorites and information about allergies – if it means they’ll receive a discount on goods like these.

Retailers will be wise to think about the entire chain of data handling as they look to balance personalization efforts off against their compliance obligations for data protection. How is loyalty card information being stored now? How vulnerable is that information to outside attack? 

And, if a retailer plans to match up that off-line data with online analytics about individual customers’ online browsing and shopping habits, customers should be told this.

It’s worth repeating this point: customers are very finely attuned to any abuse of trust. And shoppers know their rights, in Europe and beyond. They want visibility and control of the personal information they share and how that’s used. 

Misuse may not even be intentional, most notably in the case of cyber attacks. Rigorous due diligence and careful analysis by security specialists of a retailer’s cybersecurity aren’t overkill. Retailers who take extra care of customer data, and are seen to do so, will be among the winners in the race to figure out the fragile balance between personalization and privacy.

This is part one of our look at some of the 9 Trends Affecting Your Future – find the full original piece here from Retail Leader.


Ref. (2018). Retail Leader – March/April 2018. [online] 

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