Personalization is a marketing strategy that companies can use to deliver tailored messages and product offers to both current and prospective customers. At the crux of this strategy is data and data analysis.

Why is personalization important? Because enhancing the customer experience is becoming a key differentiator. Customers expect a superb experience. This experience drives customer loyalty, determining whether a customer will be a one-time shopper or a repeat customer.

Personalized marketing resonates with consumers. Customized experiences not only streamline the shopping experience – but also make the customer feel valued.

However, with this strategy – and the valuable data that supports it – comes significant risk in the form of data breaches, privacy violations, and possible reputational damage.

Aside from hurting your company’s brand, data breaches are also financial burdens.

Equifax, one of the largest consumer credit reporting agencies, recently experienced this. In July 2019, Equifax reached a settlement that required the agency to pay up to $700 million in fines and monetary relief to impacted consumers as a result of its 2017 data breach, which exposed nearly 150 million people’s personal information – such as social security numbers, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.

That’s why it’s important to put data security and privacy at the forefront of your personalization endeavors. Putting in the proper security infrastructure upfront alleviates issues down the road – such as breaches, product delays, regulatory fines and penalties, etc.

Personalization is a powerful tool that can increase customer retention and spending – but it should be wielded with proper defense mechanisms in effect.

At Sepire, data integrity is of the utmost priority. Believe it or not, we say “no” more often than we say “yes”—especially when we believe that data could be at risk. Client privacy and respect for the privacy of data is always top of mind for us.

Below we outline a few approaches and safety precautions that your company can take to ensure you are never at risk.

Put risk controls in place

Your company can leverage risk management tools to effectively and strategically manage potential data risks. Risk registers, a risk management tool, can be used to identify a project’s or company’s chief concerns and risks. For example, your company can compile a list of risks associated with your current data infrastructure, including a description, priority, who’s responsible, and potential mitigants.

Convening with your teammates to collaborate and discuss potential risks is a good place to start. Developing this comprehension of your company’s risk profile is imperative to staying ahead of data security and privacy issues – and potential repercussions.

Another data safeguard is to appoint or hire a Business Information Security Officer (BISO).

This person has a wide range of responsibilities, but they ultimately tie back to identifying, controlling, and mitigating risks. A BISO (1) addresses security issues across a company’s divisions, (2) runs compliance tests to ensure policies and regulatory requirements are met, and (3) assesses the risks associated with ongoing business decisions.

Even if your company does not staff a BISO, it should have data privacy policies and incident response plans in place. Two prominent data privacy techniques are tokenization and sanitization.

Tokenization is the process of replacing sensitive data with a meaningless equivalent (i.e. a token) to ensure data isn’t compromised. Data sanitization is the process of permanently removing data from a database or device, rendering the data unrecoverable. This is an important process to enforce at the end of your data’s lifecycle.

Lastly, it’s also important to formulate incident response plans – and to regularly adapt them to your company’s infrastructure. Should a data breach occur, a swift response and remediation is expected, so it’s essential to have predetermined actions established.

Mandate ongoing training and hold employees accountable

Educating your employees on data best practices is integral to maintaining a high standard of data security and privacy. For example, your company can hold regular trainings on best practices for day-to-day data protection, such as how to properly handle data before using it within remarketing strategies.

Per IBM’s 2019 Cost of a Data Breach report, although malicious breaches are the most common, accidental breaches driven by human error still accounted for 24% of the surveyed breaches.

One way to hold your employees accountable – and mitigate human error – is to incorporate compliance with security and privacy standards into annual performance reviews. Quantifiable metrics can be used as well, such as number of links opened within phishing emails.

This ensures data security is prioritized vertically and horizontally across the company.

Increase customer satisfaction and gain trust through security and privacy optionality

One way to gain customer appreciate and increase your customer experience is to provide your customers with data protection options – such as allowing them to choose between multifactor authentication methods. Another example, you can adapt your platform to provide customers with password strength testers or the ability to generate a random, secure password.

By integrating these functionalities into your user interfaces, customers can make the choice that’s most convenient for them.

As your company entertains new personalization methods, it’s important to include data security in the conversation. It’s much easier to address these potential issues upfront, before introducing new interfaces or campaigns. Otherwise, you run the risk of noncompliance, delays, or even catastrophic breaches.