DataProtectionKeyAppA click or a swipe decides both the beginning and the end of the customer life cycle of a mobile app. Not to mention that businesses have to do a lot of convincing to get customers to install an app. Then just imagine that downloading the app is just the beginning before the tricky part starts which involves trust and values.

No matter where a company is in the mobile app journey, an actionable approach to data protection is essential to building long-lasting and profitable customer relationships.

Advertisers and brands are struggling with the intensely complex handling of customer data and changing data protection regulations as they must find a balance between the new regulations of the big tech companies, the constantly changing data protection guidelines of the authorities, and the growing demands of consumers.

Brands and app users simply have very different expectations: customers want more control over their interactions with brands, and the latter tend to be overly focused on collecting as much customer data as possible.

So how can an exchange of information be designed that creates added value for everyone involved and what does the future of digital data protection look like? Well, time will tell, but the fact is, customers prefer mobile apps over other channels, so you should consider investing in privacy processes and continually evolving to better meet customer needs. It is a must for companies to seek regular exchanges with their security experts to identify and solve possible problems and gaps in data protection. After all, both customers and companies benefit from a successful app experience that meets all data protection requirements.

Transparency and control a must for consumers

Even though an app can be installed with the click of a button, customers first weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a download, considering the handling of their personal data, the frequency of notifications, feedback from other users and the duration of the download. In other words, consumers first think of their own benefit before downloading an app.

Consumers have never had more control over their data than they do today. Since Apple's iOS 15, users can restrict how and when they receive notifications. Apple also offers anonymous email addresses, blocked email tracking pixels, and hidden IP addresses. Even before an Apple iOS user downloads a brand's app, data collection practices are exposed through privacy labels. Android 12's new privacy dashboard also provides an overview of permission settings and what data is being accessed, how often, and by which apps.

According to a survey by Airship, consumers are more likely starting a conversation with a brand when they have control over why, how often, and the channels brands use to engage with them. Conversely, when unsubscribing from an app, the most common reason is receiving too many messages followed by receiving irrelevant or non-personalized notifications. A report by Deloitte also confirms this trend, stating that successful brands are leading the way in the move to first-party data, as they see the need to adapt to this rapidly changing environment. A detailed approach to working with first and zero-party data and investing in initiative-taking measures are prerequisites for brands to be successful with customers.

Brands need to earn consumer trust

Considering and validating consumer preferences – including the option to just be left alone – is becoming a big trend. Before brands ask customers for personal information, they need to make it clear what the customer data will be used for and whether the user notices demonstrate a logical connection between the data collection and the specific purpose for which the data is needed. In addition, customers must be asked for consent in advance for each new intention for data usage and the deletion of customer data as soon as they are no longer needed or at the request of customers. Before querying user data, it must be clear to what extent an app meets these criteria. After all, trust that has been lost is difficult to regain.

A major advantage of mobile apps is the ability to reach consumers with push notifications wherever and whenever it makes sense. However, this direct customer access also quickly leads to sending too many push notifications. A flood of irrelevant topics for the user often leads to the uninstallation of an app. Brands must therefore send only relevant push notifications and find the right level of personalized, individual interactions. Consumers are now more aware than ever of their data rights, preferring brands that are responsive, respect their privacy and command attention over relevance. As soon as users experience technical problems or faulty communication, the likelihood that they will no longer use the app or uninstall it increases. A cross-channel preference center is therefore indispensable, as it manages subscription settings and the central control of customer preferences and cookie settings. In this way, brands give their customers control and the ability to easily agree or decline options as they see fit, across all channels.

According to Gartner, customers who trust a brand more are also more willing to share information with them and spend up to 20 percent more on that brand.

Technical basis must be right

A customer service rep can probably hear the frustration in the customer's voice and respond accordingly, but that can’t be expected from a chatbot yet. So, it remains a technical challenge to make the communication of customer wishes and interests as uncomplicated as possible.

App experience platforms allow app users to decide how and when to communicate with brands, what their cause is, or if they want to be left alone. If apps aren't up to speed on these points, it's time to adjust them.

From a legal point of view, data protection is a complex area in which numerous pitfalls lurk. The challenges in implementing the strict requirements for handling personal data have been increasing for years. Without advice that guides brands through the compliance requirements, it hardly works anymore. Because the principles of data protection are relatively simple, intuitive, and easy to implement with the right approach. As such, it's important for brands to involve their experienced privacy and compliance team in all decisions about data collection, storage and use from the outset. When brands pay attention to this early involvement, potential problems and delays can be identified and avoided immediately.

By Daniela La Marca