CRM software vendors are no strangers to contending with consumer privacy advocates. These are the same advocates that contended with telemarketing firms and, further back, door-to-door salesmen. But now, as businesses have grown more sophisticated in analyzing their markets, these advocates are sniffing every legal nook and cranny to make sure that even retailers put a leash on incorporating new technologies.
This does not only pose a challenge to retailers but also to vendors who use telemarketing and other B2B marketing tools to approach these retailers. The reactions of the consumers will reflect on retailer’s interest and willingness to adopt their technologies.
But first, as an example of what some of these technologies are, here’s a report from Christopher Matthews of Time Business about how retailers are employing them to compete with their online counterparts:
“As I detailed in a recent article, store managers have been fighting back by trying to re-create in physical stores the sort of analytics available to e-commerce firms.”
And of course, the reaction from consumer privacy advocates gets a strong mention as Matthews cite Pam Dixon, an executive of the World Privacy Forum:
“That kind of tracking is, according to Dixon, unethical and contrary to shoppers’ expectation of privacy. ‘Legally, stores have the right to put up security cameras, but the consumer expectation of privacy is being circumvented here,’ she says. ‘Because when a consumer looks into that camera, they expect it’s being used for security, not marketing purposes.’”
Fortunately for both retailers and software vendors, you have as much right to challenge these accusations. For example, if you’re qualifying CRM leads and a prospect raises this concern, pose the following questions in return:
Is it truly illegal?
Take note that even Dixon admits:
“And even if retailers were using facial-recognition software to identify individual shoppers and combining that information with other data like financial histories, there is nothing necessarily illegal about doing so.”
Just as telemarketing laws actually have exceptions when it comes to businesses, so should you and your agents be quick to rationally defend the use of such technologies. Their customers are the ones entering the store and providing information. In the same manner, your target businesses provided information that allowed you and your telemarketers to call them. How are any of these illegal when there is still a fair amount of responsibility on the part of both customer types?
Is it such a big deal?
Citing Bill Gerba, CEO of WireSpring Technologies:
“He thinks consumers should be informed about these marketing tactics but believes most retailers are too wary of the public backlash to use facial-recognition software to individually identify their customers.”
This should carry over to your business. As a matter of fact, a telemarketing company would also tell you something similar and add that you may be confusing reactions from consumers with that of B2B customers.
Is it not transparent?
“Says Dixon: ‘I think it’s absolutely crucial for these companies to come clean with the public and disclose what is happening.’”
Coming clean isn’t as difficult or horrible for either retailers or software telemarketers. The technology exists and everyone knows about it just as businesses know their numbers are public and anyone, even other B2B marketers, can call them.
Ultimately, it just goes to show how pointless this debate is. No matter how the more extreme anti-marketing advocates decry this technology, even those who genuinely defend consumer privacy realize there’s not much to really argue over.