How Not to Get Sued When You Start Mobile Marketing
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In a crowded marketplace, businesses compete to get their marketing message in front of consumers. Research shows that consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to help make purchasing decisions. A 2012 study by Google and M/A/R/C Research found that 8 in 10 smartphone owners use their devices while shopping in stores, and 82 percent of shoppers use mobile search engines to locate information.
"The most important thing to be aware of is the collection, use and engagement of data," says Michael Becker, North American Managing Director for the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and co-author of Mobile Marketing for Dummies, (Wiley, 2010). This means obtaining and managing consumer permission to contact them via mobile and online devices, he says. For example, if a business plans to do any direct marketing such as geo-targeting or push notifications, it must obtain prior, explicit permission from the consumer (an opt-in).
When connecting with consumers, Becker says businesses must be aware of opt-ins, make proper disclosures and be sure to secure the appropriate consent to engage with consumers. To help with this, MMA offers some best practice guidelines for businesses on its website. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s website also offers tips to businesses marketing apps, such as ensuring key disclosures are made clearly and conspicuously, and not collecting personal information from children under age 13 (in accordance with the Children’s Online Protection and Privacy Act).
Related: What Every Online Business Needs to Know About the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act
When starting a mobile marketing campaign, Becker suggests businesses keep these four concepts in mind:
1. Choice: How are you giving consumers the choice to opt-in or opt-out?
2. Transparency: How will you use the data collected from consumers? Have you informed them what information is gathered and how it will be used?
3. Control: Can consumers control the communications they receive? Can they opt-out when they want to? (For example, Stop notices for text messages or easy unsubscribe methods.)
4. Security: Have you taken the appropriate steps to secure the data collected?
There are a number of state and federal laws and regulations that apply to this emerging area, Becker notes, and laws haven’t caught up with the technology. Becker recommends speaking with someone who has expertise in digital media, privacy and technology, who’s also on top of industry regulations and legislation.