There are many challenges we face in mobile digital marketing: technological, organizational, strategic, and financial. There is one thing that we cannot, as an industry, afford to do and that is to make our jobs any more difficult.
For years, Anagog has worked side by side with digital marketing executives. We help them generate unique three-dimensional insights about their individual customers and their overall customer base. They then leverage these insights for better engagement and personalization. We hear, firsthand, from dozens of marketers who complain that they are frustrated by the incessant stream of new privacy regulations and policies regarding the handling of users’ personal data.
When it comes to mobile apps, Apple and Google have introduced requirements to obtain user permission for collecting a variety of personal data types. These restrictions create the biggest headaches, marketers complain. They get in the way of providing the type of personalized experiences that customers expect and demand.
I think it is time for all of us to look ourselves in the mirror and recognize the inconvenient truth of digital mobile marketing: stricter app permissions are necessary for the long-term success of our industry.
Why stricter app permissions are good for mobile marketing
The holy grail of marketing is to provide a user experience customized to the personal preferences, behavior and circumstances of every mobile user. It also happens to be the fantasy of many consumers. The digital marketing stack is so advanced now that we can collect petabytes of data about our customers each week, if the technology is not reined in. This is more data than they could possibly imagine.
Let’s face it: the guardrails are necessary, and they’ve been a long time coming. We should welcome them as they drive us to develop solutions that deliver better personalization with complete data privacy. More importantly, looking forward, we’re going to need these higher privacy standards even more desperately.
A recent case that made the news perfectly illustrates this point. The story concerns an app that is marketed to parents concerned with the welfare of their families; it allows loved ones to keep track of each other’s whereabouts and automatically detect harmful events such as phone loss, accidents, and more. For this, the app collects a flood of location (and activity) data. The app then turns around and promptly sells this data to third parties. So much so, in fact, that the app became a leading source of raw location data.
To be fair, they obtained the data legitimately. The app requested and received, as we all must, permission to collect users’ location data at all times (as well as a slew of additional sensitive personal data). On the other hand, it takes a very cynical mind to imagine that the app that is intended to help increase the safety of one’s children is actually sharing their whereabouts with anyone willing to pay for them. There is one more twist. The app offered a variety of paid membership plans. This means that families were actually paying for the privilege of having someone pass their location data around.
This is not an isolated case. As an industry, we have to recognize that these types of practices jeopardize all of our efforts. Obviously, businesses are meant to generate revenue. However, selling the personal data entrusted to us by users for a specific purpose is a betrayal of trust. We will all suffer as a result.
Why marketers, too, benefit from privacy standards
Establishing and nurturing customer relationships is time-consuming and expensive enough. Overcoming the distrust and suspicions to which cynical practices give rise just makes it harder. We don’t have to think back too far to recall the backlash after Facebook’s mishaps with personal data.
When users grant us access to their phones, they give us 24/7 access to their lives. That requires trust. When one company abuses that trust, it casts suspicion on us all. So, we should welcome guidelines that help foster transparency between companies and consumers. When we work to gain users’ trust, we can make reasonable requests for permission. Once consumers trust us, they will grant it.
As companies consider the dawning opportunities of the metaverse, they will need to take even more care with their approach to data. With users increasing the range of their activities across the digital realm, the trail of data they leave behind will grow correspondingly. Unethical data practices in the metaverse will backfire on companies in the real world.
Mobile app data permissions are not the problem; they are a somewhat clumsy attempt at a solution. The solution lies in practices that require fewer permissions, apply true personalization, deliver a better user experience, and provide more comprehensive data safety. Let’s do that.
If you agree that we can and should do better and you plan on being in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, let’s meet and chat.