Kim Bhasin / Business Insider
Macy's vice president of customer strategy Julie Bernard thinks the marketing industry has missed the boat by failing to explain to the public all the benefits consumers enjoy from companies collecting their personal data.
Ad Age reports that in comments made Wednesday at the D2 Digital Dialogue conference in Cincinnati, Bernard expressed her frustration that negative spin from the media had stoked consumer outrage without appropriately addressing the benefits of receiving advertisements for products they actually would consider buying.
"The media has spun this story so negative, and it's really a shame that people in our positions have not taken a more dominant position on speaking on the macro and micro economic benefits of delivering relevancy by responsibly using customer data," Bernard said. "Consumers are worried about our use of data, but they're pissed if I don't deliver relevance. … How am I supposed to deliver relevance and magically deliver what they want if I don't look at the data?"
Bernard's statements reflect the dilemma marketing executives face when trying to drive sales with targeted advertisements.
While it's true consumers don't want to be bothered by ads for products they'd never purchase (looking at you, Facebook advertisement for "Rocky on Broadway"), many customers are also deeply distrustful of who will see the collected data and how it will be used. A study conducted last year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 68% of Americans felt negatively about targeted advertisements.
It was this distrust that prompted data collection giant Acxiom to offer members of the public a peek at a limited sample of data it had collected on them, provided of course, that they first offer their name, address, and the last four digits of their social security number.
The site, AboutTheData.com, also gave the public a chance to correct any information that was incorrect. This offer allowed consumers to participate in the symbiotic relationship Bernard advocated by exchanging their valuable personal data for advertisements that better informed their purchasing decisions. However, the data Acxiom made public was just a small sliver of what it provides clients to give them a leg up on competitors.
Bernard and her fellow marketers' challenge is to collect just the right amount of data from consumers: enough to keep their advertisements sufficiently relevant to win sales from their competitors, but not so much as to create an army of consumers "pissed" about their privacy rights.
“I could just track every phone that came into Macy’s without announcing to people,” Bernard said at the conference. (She was probably referring to in-store mobile wifi tracking, which some companies do but not Macy's.) “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
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