Digital marketing, data security must go hand in hand
 
Digital marketing, data security must go hand in hand
15 MARCH 2019 7:42 AM

Changes in digital marketing require hotels to increase security for guest privacy and to avoid a data breach.

Personalization in the hotel industry via digital marketing is no longer a trend; it is an obligation. Personalized content marketing not only costs less than traditional marketing, it also generates about three times as many leads.

However, 71% of U.S. consumers worry about how brands collect and use their personal data, and 34% don’t trust companies with their digital privacy, according to a new survey by ExpressVPN.

Social media and e-commerce continue to drive our industry toward personalization, and as a result, data protection, privacy rights and overall business-to-consumer transparency has become a significant focus.

This personalized digital marketing strategy now comes with risks and necessitates safeguards. On 25 May 2018, we saw the General Data Protection Regulation strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union. Then, in June 2018, California’s legislature took a major step by passing the California Consumer Privacy Act, which governs the steps businesses must take when collecting, sharing and responding to consumers’ personal data. The CCPA applies to companies that make $25 million or more revenue annually and that do business with Californian residents, even if they are based outside of the state.

This law will go into effect on 1 January 2020, and according to some American software and private cloud service providers, it will be the strictest state-level data security regulation in the United States.

Common personal data collected by hotels needs to be handled with extra care. This includes names, phone numbers, email addresses, reservation numbers, IP addresses or any information that allows someone to be uniquely identified. Sophisticated due diligence is now required—especially for large hotel companies—when collecting and processing personal information from consumer data.

So, what does this mean for hoteliers looking to ramp up their personalized digital marketing efforts in the coming years? Here are some useful, necessary steps properties can take to remain compliant with the CCPA, while also improving their brand reputation:

  1. Document all personal data that is collected, handled and stored by your property.
  2. Understand where the personal data comes from and with whom it is shared.
  3. Audit your data processes by identifying who is ultimately responsible for data security and privacy within your management structure.
  4. Implement the proper security systems to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data and reduce the risk of external hacking.
  5. Ensure data transparency by setting clear privacy policies, communicating them to your guests, and making sure your entire staff is on board.
  6. Confirm that guests are able to opt into or out of data collection.
  7. Minimize the amount of data collected and stored by immediately removing unnecessary data.

These steps serve as a starting point to prepare hoteliers for the coming changes in regulations and provide a guide to continuously improve cybersecurity and reduce needless data collection. Ultimately, compliance will require continued monitoring, focused staff guidance and the implementation of new policies set forth by legislation. However, developing a culture that respects guest privacy and considers data security at every step is arguably the most important aspect to consider when navigating data compliance and security.

What does this have to do with digital marketing? We are in the early stages of a war between hotels and short-term rentals. We owe our guests safety and security, care in the handling of sensitive data and a better experience for them on every trip. Personalization is at the core of the guest experience today, but the short-term rental industry has been growing exponentially without systems in place. Life safety, guest security and careful handling of guest data is paramount to the differentiation of our products. Cybersecurity protects us and our guests. All hotels should incorporate cyber and breach risk into their management programs—it will pay off in more ways than one.

Robert A. Rauch, CHA, is an internationally-recognized hotelier, CEO and founder of RAR Hospitality, a leading hospitality management and consulting firm based in San Diego. Rauch has more than 35 years of hospitality-related management experience in all facets of the industry.

Sarah Andersen is Business Development Manager of RAR Hospitality.

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