Customer privacy and the return of email marketing

18 Dec


Written by

Marvellous Aham-adi




Customer privacy and the return of email marketing
Dark mode
Dark mode
Switch to light mode
Switch to dark mode

Email marketing is a tool that has been around for decades. Marketers have also acknowledged the effectiveness of email marketing. It's no wonder that for a period of time, the most popular email marketing statistics was (and maybe still is) - for every $1 spent on email marketing you make $42.

And while email marketing is still a great tool for businesses trying to reach their customers, in recent years, its effectiveness has declined due to a range of factors. 

These factors include customer privacy concerns, spamming, the use of ad-blockers, and the rise of social media marketing. However, with the advent of new data protection laws and a more privacy-conscious audience, email marketing is set to make a comeback, but this time with a focus on customer privacy.

In this article, we will examine the relationship between customer privacy and email marketing, exploring the rising concerns over privacy, and the future trends to expect. Additionally, we will explore the strategies that businesses can use to enhance their email marketing and make it more effective.

As we delve into this topic, it is important to note that customer privacy concerns are here to stay. Businesses that are able to adapt their email marketing strategies to meet customers' privacy preferences will be the ones to succeed.

The Rise of Customer Privacy Concerns

The rise of customer privacy concerns has been fueled by a number of factors. 

One factor that has contributed significantly to customer privacy concerns is the increase in data breaches. Large companies have suffered massive data breaches in recent years, leading to the exposure of customer data. In just France alone, there have been 5,389 personal data breaches since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in May 2018. These incidents have led to distrust among customers, who are now hyper-aware of the potential risks of sharing their personal information online. 

The increased prevalence of scamming activities has also created a fear of having personal information stolen. This fear has led customers to be more cautious about the businesses they interact with and avoid those that they perceive as untrustworthy. And this fear from the customers is also not unfounded as 96% of phishing attacks globally arrive by email.

Another reason why customers are skeptical about giving out their personal information is spamming. Nearly 56.5% of all emails sent in 2022 were spam. And according to The Spamhaus Project, the US ranks second among the countries with the most spam. France comes in at 10. 

Source: Spamhaus

The customers in these countries will also not readily give out their personal information to companies except if they trust them. 

Note that spamming is also not just an annoyance for customers, but it can also land businesses in legal trouble as it contravenes privacy and anti-spam laws that stipulate that electronic communications may only be sent with consent. You may even have to pay fines of up to $50,000 in the United States and 15,000 euros in France. 

To avoid falling into any legal troubles, businesses have to ensure that they only send email messages to customers who have consented and subscribed to a mailing list. This not only helps prevent spamming but also helps improve customer engagement as subscribers already have an interest in what the business has to offer. 

So far, we have seen why customers have concerns about data privacy. The next question is what can be done to alleviate the fears of customers and ensure that their data is protected?

First of all, both the government and businesses have a role to play. And with the introduction of more privacy laws and regulations, businesses are required by law to take customer privacy seriously.  For example, The Digital Service Act (DSA) for countries in the European Union was entered into force on November 16, 2022. The primary principle of the act is “what is illegal offline must be illegal online”. There are also new privacy acts like the EU-US. Data Privacy Framework that has been passed to further protect the personal data of customers. (More Data Privacy Laws)

Customers now have more rights over their personal information and can demand to know how their data is handled, stored, and used. This has made businesses more accountable to their customers and has led to more transparency in the way they handle personal data.

Now, let’s look at how businesses can do their part in adhering to customer privacy laws. 

How to Adhere to Customer Privacy

To win the trust of customers, businesses must prioritize customer privacy and show their commitment to protecting customer data. Ensuring that your customers can trust your business with their personal information is a key factor in building customer loyalty. 

Here are some best practices to follow to ensure that they adhere to customer privacy:

1. Obtain customer consent: Obtain your customers' explicit opt-in consent before adding them to any email list. This can be achieved through clear and distinct calls to action that inform customers of the purpose of the data collection and how their data will be used.

2. Provide a clear privacy policy: Your privacy policy should be clear and accessible to customers. The policy should provide information on how your customers' data is collected, stored, and used. As well as how to opt out of data sharing. 

3. Secure customer data: There must be adequate measures in place to protect the privacy and security of customer data. Implement encryption protocols to protect data during transmission and storage and regularly review your security protocols to ensure they are up-to-date and effective.

4. Monitor data access: Limit access to customer data and ensure that employees who require access are trained in data privacy best practices. Regular audits of data protection systems are also recommended.

5. Notify customers of any breaches: In the event of any data breaches or security incidents, notify your customers immediately. This transparent approach demonstrates a commitment to privacy and can help your business retain customer trust.

The Future of Email Marketing

The future of email marketing is set to evolve in line with changing attitudes toward privacy, emerging technology, and the shifting needs of customers. Below are some of the future trends in email marketing that businesses should be watching out for:

1. Shift towards opt-in lists: With privacy concerns in the foreground, businesses need to ensure that their email lists are built upon consent. Emails sent to individuals who have not opted-in risk contravening privacy laws. Instead, businesses should create attractive offers that will incentivize users to subscribe to their email lists. 

Here is an example of a brand using discounts and free shipping to incentivize customers to submit their emails.

Source: Drip

2. Increasing personalization: Customers are looking for more personalized email marketing messages. By tailoring content to specific customer needs and preferences, businesses will build customer loyalty and trust. Advances in technology, such as artificial intelligence, will help businesses create more personalized email marketing content, driving customer engagement and conversions.

3. Focus on mobile devices: Email marketing has to adapt to the growing use of mobile devices. Today, 81% of emails are being opened and read on mobile devices. Businesses need to ensure that their email campaigns are optimized for mobile, creating easy-to-read, responsive designs that work on different screen sizes.

4. Integration with artificial intelligence (AI) technology: Predictive analytics and machine learning capabilities provided by AI can help businesses determine which products or services their customers are likely to be interested in based on past behavior, purchase activity, and interactions with the business. By leveraging machine learning and AI for personalization, businesses can improve customer engagement and drive conversions.

Businesses need to be aware of the trends and shifts in customer behavior, technology, and privacy laws that are shaping the industry. Focusing on customer needs, personalization, mobile optimization, privacy, and AI integration will help businesses create effective email marketing campaigns and stay ahead of the competition in the years to come.


Customer privacy is rapidly becoming a top priority in the world of digital marketing. With the rise of data breaches, the introduction of stricter privacy laws, and the increased prevalence of spamming, customers are becoming increasingly cautious about sharing their personal information with businesses. To win and maintain customer trust, businesses need to prioritize customer privacy by ensuring that their data collection and storage comply with privacy laws. They should also be transparent about how customer data is used and avoid spamming.

Despite these challenges, email marketing is set to make a return as an effective marketing tool. As businesses look for new and innovative ways to reach out to customers, email will remain a key channel for communication. However, it must do so with a focus on privacy, personalization, mobile optimization, and automation. By maintaining a focus on privacy and respecting customer needs, businesses can build trust and authenticity with their email marketing campaigns.

Email marketing is a subset of digital marketing. Learn more about customer privacy in digital marketing.

Articles you may find interesting

Get more marketing tips
& news straight to your inbox