‘Marketers see your details as a commodity’

A study that set out to explore the latest trends in email marketing has exposed most marketers as cavalier in their approach to customers’ personal information.

Some marketers quizzed by the Ponemon Institute even said they were willing to disclose a customer‘s credit card or bank account details, as well as their sexual orientation.

Others said they were willing to tell third parties the customer’s religious beliefs, ethnicity or political persuasions; all in an attempt to help boost their sales.

Even more worrying for consumers is the institute’s finding that almost two-thirds of the marketing professionals said they had lost, or had stolen, a customer’s confidential details.

The full findings reportedly show that in 90% of these cases, the customer is never informed that their data has been lost or stolen.

The data losses were more frequent when marketers said their promotional activities were outsourced to a third party, such as a vendor, or carried out via email.

Out of those marketers who said customer data had been lost or stolen, just over half potentially lost new business and slightly fewer (56%) lost existing customers.

The research, carried out by StrongMail, suggests that marketers are embedded in a culture that routinely shares customers’ details with an array of business partners to boost their sales.

When asked whether their outfit restricts which parties to share customer data with, three quarters of privacy professionals said it did, compared to just 40% of marketers.

Bill Wagner, an executive vice president of StrongMail, said the findings show that many marketers view customer data as “more of a commodity than an asset.”

“[Marketers’] willingness to violate the trust of their customers can have a disastrous affect in terms of customer loyalty,” he said,

“Until customer information is handled as intellectual property, this situation is unlikely to change.”

The US-based study included interviews with 713 marketers in May 2008.


24th June 2008

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