Growing Your Local Business While Keeping Consumer Privacy Top of Mind

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In today’s online world, data is king. Marketers have built their platforms around the use of their customers’ information. But with consumer privacy laws on the rise, it is crucial for businesses to know how to comply with data privacy standards while still benefiting from the marketing channels that can generate leads and increase revenue.  

This article will explore how small businesses can grow their footprint through marketing while complying with consumer data privacy laws. 

What to Know about Current Laws

While there are a few federal laws covering regulated industries, such as healthcare (HIPAA) and finance (GLBA), there is no comprehensive federal law today that covers all industries regarding data privacy for consumers.

This has led to states enacting their own data privacy laws, with California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) being the first. Effective January 2020, the CCPA has profoundly impacted data privacy throughout the country, standing as one of the United States’ most significant and comprehensive data protection laws.

Created to give California consumers more control over their data, such as the right to know, delete, or opt-out of the sale of their information, the CCPA has paved the way for data privacy, with Nevada and Maine having already adopted similar regulations. Many other states are quickly following suit. 

The Challenges that Privacy Laws Present

No matter where your business is located, one can expect that understanding and adhering to basic data privacy standards will be a legal requirement for all in the future. That’s why it is essential to know how these regulations could impact your business and marketing strategy. 

Taking proactive steps now on your data privacy practices could help you gain a potential advantage for future compliance obligations.

Understanding Data Collection

Data collection extends beyond information directly provided by consumers through their interactions with your business. It can also include data that is indirectly collected through site cookies or third-party advertisers, such as IP address, geolocation, and browsing history. Mapping this information and understanding its flow is vital to adhering to consumers’ rights.

And while a substantial amount of customer information may come your way, it’s also useful to note that excessive data can detract value from your marketing goals and increase your liability or risk of a security breach. It’s best only to collect what you intend to use.

Accountability and Transparency 

An important takeaway from the current crop of laws is that data collection isn’t forbidden, but consumers have a right to know how and why their information is used. 

When it comes to reassuring your customers about your data collection practices, transparency is critical. Your privacy policy should include as much information as possible to give your visitors a precise picture of your procedures, letting them know exactly how you received their data and what you intend to do with it.

Technical Limitations 

The cost of building a data privacy program could be significant for some businesses. Starting to put some best practices in place now could make reaching compliance easier. This might include:

  • Thorough data mapping and inventory to ensure data collected is both findable and deletable across all systems
  • A process to handle consumer requests and opt-outs to ensure privacy preferences are remembered
  • Provide a homepage Privacy link, ensure it is updated to be fully transparent, and that processes are in place to adhere to it
  • Employ a data minimization strategy — only collecting the data that is needed and using it as disclosed and consented to
  • Evaluate third-party providers, ensuring they too comply with data privacy standards.

Stay Compliant and Still Generate Leads 

For businesses looking to use the digital space to grow their companies, marketers must be resourceful in how data is collected and how audiences are reached. Given the public’s concern with potential privacy violations, many consumers may choose not to share their information or have it deleted. This trend may require a heavier focus on email leads or marketing with increased engagement to convert customers who have expressed interest.

Email Marketing 

Email is an effective and popular marketing tool for many businesses. However, customers tend to be wary of signing up for them — partly out of fear of their data being sold and receiving excessive emails from third parties as a result. Businesses should ensure that consumer data is collected correctly, forgo the use of purchased email lists, and maintain transparency regarding the marketing uses intended when that data is obtained.

Some important things to consider when it comes to email marketing and data protection laws, especially CCPA:

  • Email addresses are considered personal data. Any consumer request to have their email address deleted must be honored
  • A customer must be notified if their data is sold to a third party and be given the option to opt-out of that sale
  • You must give consumers the ability to opt-out of receiving emails, either from your business or third parties

Advertising Campaigns 

Despite the aversion toward data collection, consumers still tend to respond well to personalization in the advertising they experience. The balancing act that marketers must maintain going forward is learning how to use data smartly without offending consumers or running afoul of the law. Using data as consented to and for only the reasons stated is a must.

And despite the legal framework surrounding data protection laws, it’s worth remembering that data collection is perfectly acceptable, so long as it’s legally compliant. 

The Future of Consumer Data Protection and Your Business

Feeling overwhelmed by the apparent complexity of data privacy laws is understandable. But these issues are experienced by marketers throughout the country, and there are many resources available to help your business become compliant.

For more information about the CCPA, click here. For more information about Nevada’s Consumer Data Protection Law, click here

Additionally, working with an established digital marketing company is an effective way to ensure compliance. The advantages of this approach are many. Working with a partner can help you transparently track information, utilize proven organic engagement methods, and increase your ability to take action on consumer requests.  

In the end, the laws surrounding consumer data privacy are still in their early stages. Currently, there may be some grey areas in these regulations’ application. But, as long as your company adheres to the basic principles and practices detailed in this article, you can expect to grow your business while remaining compliant with any likely new legislation

Sarah Allen is Technical Project Manager at Scorpion.