Published by: Fera Team - Guest Post

Big data and data analysis is no longer a trend.

It is an essential tool for most businesses in a variety of industries in the world today.

Collecting and analyzing various kinds of data, such as user reviews, enables companies to gain valuable insights to help them improve their company.

For the eCommerce industry, data collection is incredibly beneficial.

Over 2 million businesses currently have online eCommerce websites, which means many companies are competing against one another in the market.

However, companies can easily stand out from one another by using data wisely.

By collecting customer data, online retailers and their marketing teams can better understand customers' wants and needs.

From there, they can make the proper adjustments to better attract and retain more customers.

That being said, as this practice increases, more consumers grow concerned about their privacy and the safety that may be at risk.

These concerns are valid, as every data point collected from a customer can put them at risk of being the target of a cyber attack.

So while marketers for eCommerce businesses can and should make use of customer data to help create a better experience for the customer, they also must be mindful of their data collection strategy so as not to compromise customers and put them at risk.

Ethics of Collection
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User Reviews as a Data Collection Method

Companies have several different methods to collect customer data.

Mass email marketing, for example, such as the use of e-newsletters, promotional emails, and acquisition emails, was a popular way to collect data on customers early on — and it is still used for data collection today.

Many companies will send out emails that collect subscriber data, such as their name, birthday, and contact information by directing customers to fill out a form or click on a button that takes them to a webpage with a form to fill out.

This method is considered ethical as customers know what information is being collected from them and they can choose not to provide this data if they don’t want to.

Many eCommerce companies also gain data insights through social media or the use of cookies and web beacons on their websites.

You can even ask customers directly for their data through online forms and questionnaires.

Customer reviews are also another method of data collection that is becoming increasingly popular — mainly for the benefits it brings to marketing efforts.

The Benefits of User Reviews for Data Collection

Customer reviews are standard across all industries.

It doesn’t matter what kind of company you run; you likely have customers who leave reviews full of useful information.

Healthcare practices, for example, can leverage patient reviews to improve the care they offer patients and how they market their business to their patients.

Many healthcare practices are going digital and offering more online tele-health services, and patient reviews are full of valuable information that can help these practices fix any issues and attract more patients going forward.

This is a very specific example, of course, but any business that offers online services in the eCommerce space can similarly use customer reviews to make improvements.

For example, customer reviews and product reviews, or other customer data can explain how customers shop, what they are looking for, and potential pain points involved in the process.

Furthermore, customer data and reviews don’t just provide online businesses with insights into things that need fixing, but they also help build trust and boost conversion rates.

Prospective customers use reviews to help make shopping and buying decisions.

They will read through reviews to help them decide whether or not they trust a company and want to purchase with them. As you collect more honest, positive reviews, customers will be more likely to flock your way.

Benefits of User Reviews
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Why Ethical Use of Customer Data Is So Important in eCommerce

Though customer data might be helpful, companies must pay close attention to how and why they use it.

If a customer feels that you are using or even stealing their information for unethical reasons and putting them at risk, this can create significant problems for your company.

You will not only lose customer loyalty, but you could also face legal ramifications.

Unregulated data collection can also be a security risk — to you and your customers.

Cybercrime is increasing, unfortunately, leading to significant losses and even reputational damage for companies. So now more than ever, it is vital that online companies take extra precautions when collecting customer reviews and data to avoid these risks.

What Does it Mean to Be Ethical?

The term “ethical” could be interpreted in many ways in data collection.

Fortunately, companies are adopting regulations worldwide, which has led to a standard set of ethical guidelines or principles that others can follow.

These principles include:

Transparency: A Transparent data strategy ensures that your customers are informed and aware of what data is being collected and for what purpose.

Honesty: You must be honest in your intentions with your data usage. If you tell customers you are using data for a specific purpose, stick to your word, and don’t leave out any details.

Relevancy: The data you collect should be relevant. In other words, you should only collect data that applies to improving things for the customer; if it is used for other purposes, then it isn’t relevant, and you should be collecting it.

Security: What data you do collect should be protected. If you neglect protecting customer data, you are willfully putting your customers and your company at risk.

What is Means to be Ethical
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How to Ethically Collect and Use Customer Reviews

Even though there are risks in data collection, you can still build trust with your customers by using customer reviews for collection while simultaneously reaping the marketing benefits.

Below are some valuable tips for using customer reviews ethically.

1. Be Honest and Ask Directly

If you need more reviews from customers, don’t try to manipulate them into leaving reviews — just be honest and ask them directly.

Let them know that their opinion matters and helps and that you want them to leave an honest review.

If you make it seem like you are bribing them into leaving a fake or forced 5-star review, this can come back to bite you later.

2. Be Transparent About What You Are Using the Reviews For

When collecting or asking for reviews, let customers know why, don’t just ask without explaining.

You can simply say that their feedback is important in making improvements or adapting the customer experience.

You can also let them know that their reviews help you grow your business and keep providing the best service possible.

3. Be Understanding and Compassionate When Dealing with Negative Reviews

When asking for honest reviews, understand that not all reviews will be positive ones. Negative reviews also make your business look more authentic and genuine.

However, some negative reviews can impact your bottom line, so it’s still best to address them. But when doing so, handle the situation professionally and compassionately.

If you respond directly in the reviews section, apologize upfront and do not act defensively.

Let the customer know how they can contact you so you can handle the matter privately and attempt to make things right.

It’s also worth noting that negative reviews can help with data collection.

Instead of viewing a negative review as a hindrance, you should view it as a source of valuable information and take it as a teachable moment to learn and grow from.

4. Show Your Appreciation and Thank the Customer

You should not incentivize reviews that will be published on public platforms like Google or Yelp.

However, you can show your appreciation for customers and ask for reviews for your website by sending out thank yous and offering something like a coupon.

For instance, you can send customers a thank-you email after a purchase and offer them a discount in return for an honest review on your website.

But again, be mindful of the wording so it doesn’t sound like you are bribing them to leave you a fake 5-star review.

Thanking customers this way is more honest and shows them that you genuinely appreciate their business.

Beautiful, simple reviews for your site

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Wrapping Up

However you choose to collect customer data, just ensure you do so with the customer’s best interests in mind.

When using AI-powered eCommerce software on your site to collect data, for example, you should inform customers of this beforehand and have their consent to do so.

Just because advanced data tools are gaining in popularity does not mean you can simply use them without informing your customers and taking measures to protect their data.

Be responsible, respectful, and honest with your data collection methods.

From there, your business will thrive!

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