TRUSTe Offers Tips to Small Businesses in a Tough Economy

Online Privacy Increasingly Important in a Climate of Decreased Trust

San Francisco, Calif. – December 22, 2008 - In an increasingly competitive environment, many small business owners are taking another look at their company’s brand reputation to give themselves an advantage. At the same time, tough times make companies more likely to take desperate marketing measures in order to lure more customers and gain an edge over competitors.

A recent Jupiter Research survey found that sharing personal information is the number one reason consumers do not complete their purchases online, indicating the growing need for companies to demonstrate compliance with privacy best practices to gain consumer trust. Although privacy may often be overlooked by small businesses, it is critical to a company’s success in an anemic economic climate.

Due to current economic and political conditions, the climate of consumer trust is increasingly low. In response to this, TRUSTe has recently taken steps to ensure that consumer expectations for online safety are met. Notably:

  • TRUSTe has responded to over 4,613 Watchdog complaints filed by consumers so far this year, which is already a 25 percent increase over last year’s total.
  • Of these Watchdog complaints, approximately 25 percent came from individuals who were concerned that companies were keeping unauthorized profiles of their personal information, a sharp rise (more than 10 percentage points) from 2007.
  • In addition, almost 25 percent of those surveyed complained that emails were sent without their permission, and approximately 18 percent said that the site shared their personal information without permission.

TRUSTe, the leading trustmark for privacy on the Internet, offers tips for how companies can leverage trust to gain a competitive edge during tough economic times:

  • Enhance privacy. Companies are coming under increased scrutiny with respect to the way they conduct business, and in particular their online processes. At the same time, in a tough economy some players may be tempted to cut corners and take less than ethical approaches to increasing sales, but in the current environment, there’s no room for mistakes. Companies that ’fail the test’ may not get a second chance; make sure you’re the one who is trusted.
  • Lean on privacy experts. With increasing budgetary concerns & economic pressure, it’s difficult for companies to build and maintain an in-house team of legal/compliance experts. Participating in a certification program such as TRUSTe’s and displaying a trustmark on an online retail site shows consumers that their information is safe. TRUSTe can help companies large and small ensure that privacy best practices are being maintained for a fraction of the cost it would take in-house experts.
  • Make the privacy statement easy to read and easy to find. When your privacy statement is in straight-forward language, the consumer is more likely to feel confident, stay on the site and make a purchase.
  • Hold on to your customers. In this environment, companies are competing for customers with larger, more established competitors. That means you need better insights into your customers and better ways to target them with advertising and promotions. However, it is important to gather this information responsibly to avoid unknown privacy pitfalls and disputes. Use the resources of an organization like TRUSTe, which helps you stay compliant to privacy obligations while collecting customer data
  • Network, network network – carefully. Viral marketing is inexpensive and effective given the networked environment we conduct business in, and it is important that viral marketing practices are conducted in a responsible manner. The practice of importing address books is a common feature offered through social networking sites. TRUSTe works with sealholders to implement or modify their Import Contacts feature to reduce consumer confusion and build trust by providing consumers clear notice about how the feature works and choice around using it.
  • Most importantly, take advantage of your company’s reputation. In an increasingly competitive world of online business, faltering economies and failing corporate giants, the game has changed. Customers are cautious as they consider any online business transaction, so don’t let trust stand in the way of your sales or brand reputation. Is your reputation rock-solid? Then now is the time, with modest investment, to capitalize on that differentiator – communicate that you are a trusted brand to your customers. Make customers aware of your brand’s good reputation in sales materials, online and through best practices. If it isn’t, then your competition will have an easier time luring your customers away and converting new prospective customers.

About TRUSTe
TRUSTe is the leading global Data Privacy Management (DPM) company and powers trust in the data economy by enabling businesses to safely collect and use customer data across their customer, employee, and vendor channels. Our SaaS-based DPM Platform gives users control over all phases of data privacy management from conducting assessments and implementing compliance controls to managing ongoing monitoring. Our DPM Services, including assessments and certifications, are delivered by an expert team of privacy professionals. Thousands of companies worldwide rely on TRUSTe to minimize compliance risk and protect their brand.