Under opt-out plans, consumers who don't want their data collected must be given an easy means of saying "no." Opt-in plans require consumers to say "yes" before data can be collected, and that means many millions of people who don't object nonetheless will likely be excluded from target marketing plans.
As we wrote in this space last week, easy-to-use opt-out plans are the more desirable option. But under either system business will have to do a far better job of explaining the benefits of target marketing to consumers, who now will be empowered to participate or not participate as they choose. Target marketing's advocates thus far have concentrated on selling its promise to business. Now, rather than being defensive or secretive about their data collection procedures, they must take action to educate and promote target marketing's value to the individual. After all, as consumers become aware that they "own" their data, why shouldn't they ask "what's in it for us?"
Ultimately, business may have to buy data with incentives-discounts, coupons, special offers, etc. But a first step is a major advertising and consumer education effort on the benefits of receiving sales messages that are tailored to known interests and personal circumstances. Every business with an interest in target marketing has a lot riding on the success of this selling task. The time to start is now.