What your privacy policy looks like to a normal person

marketing Jul 25, 2022

Who is your customer?

Let me put that another way:  What do you know about your customer?

I mean, the next person you want to make a booking at your hotel:  The person you target with your marketing; the person who you want to make that booking on your website; the person whose stay you want to "personalise"?

What do you know about them?

For example, are they quite "bookish" - do you think they read a lot?

It looks as though many hotel operators think their customers read a lot.  Which is why they give them so much tripe to read on the privacy policies published on their websites.  One I found this weekend while I was researching hotels for my next trip had a privacy policy which would take more than forty minutes to read out loud (according to the little app on my Chrome browser which knows about these things).

FORTY MINUTES?  Are you serious?

Your privacy information is supposed to encourage people to trust you.  To trust you enough to share some of...

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Why can hotels collect 1,500 data points about me but still not use my name?

data protection marketing Jul 21, 2022

There are some interesting articles in the trade publications these days about the ability of hotel technology to collect "1,500 data points".

As I'm travelling a lot more this year and staying in hotels owned by different brands, I have been able to add a few more loyalty accounts to my wallet.

Some, it appears, make better use of technology than others.  While I'm heading up to my room in the lift, I find myself wondering, "if they're really collecting all this data, what are they planning to use it for?"

Because as far as I can tell, it may well be collected but it isn't actually being used.

There are two issues with this:

  • From a data protection point of view it looks as though data is being collected without a clear purpose - which is bad.
  • From a sales and marketing point of view it looks as though the data collected simply isn't being deployed and used - which is a sales killer.  Hotels guilty of this are leaving cash on the table, every minute of every day.


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How did they know THAT?? - How to avoid the unintended consequences of using personal data


What they don't tell you about collecting guest data for personalisation

Is it a secret?

I mean the personal data your hotel collects in the name of "personalisation".

Is it a secret that you collect it?

Is it a secret that you're going to use it?

Judging by the privacy information on many hotel websites, the casual reader would be forgiven for thinking that it just might be.

Of course nothing could be further from the truth.  Could it?

You have very good reasons for collecting and using personal data.  It is essential for your business.  You need to know what people like so you can sell them more of it.  You need to know how to compete.

Let us be clear

Take a moment to consider what your marketing and sales efforts are actually going to do with personal data.  If you are doing direct marketing properly, this is what you will be doing:

You will be collecting guest personal data, then reflecting it back to them using psychological manipulation to get them to...

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Personalisation - Sales Essential or Evil Plot?

marketing Jul 13, 2022

You will have noticed some people in our industry talking about, "personalisation" recently.

They want you to personalise your, "guest journey", your website, your email campaigns.

The guest experience is enhanced when you use personalisation...

It must be true.  It says so in at least three reports which landed on our desks here at hotelDPO last week.

But is personalisation really a useful sales tool for you?  Or will your customers see it an evil plot which uses their personal data to make your marketing messages feel just a little bit creepy?

If you're not careful it doesn't take much for one to tip over into the other.  Let's take a look...

The most common use of personalisation

For many hotel marketing campaigns the most common use of personalisation is the use of a first name in the message greeting.

As in, "Hi Allan, I hope you're well!"

I am a member of several large hotel chain loyalty schemes.  They must have all sorts of data about me now, such as...

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The danger of hotels using personal data without transparency: The flightless bird

A couple of interesting sets of survey results were published in the last week or so.

One presents some facinating insight on hotel technology as experienced by hoteliers today in mid-2022.  The other takes us to the near future and considers what will be important come 2025.

The current state of hotel technology is discussed in this survey by HotelOperations.com (as presented by the ever-relevant Josiah Mackenzie, if you're not following him you should) which you can read if you click on this link.

The glimpse into the future is presented in a joint report created by Oracle and Skift.com, which you can access from the page this link will take you to if you click it.

From my point of view as a data protection and privacy chap, these are very useful documents.  If you pull up a chair and get yourself a cup of coffee I'll explain why - and why it should matter to you.


Why the Dodo?

It's probably best if I tell you about the Dodo first.

A few years ago, in the early...

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Unleashing the power of data - or have you got a tiger by the tail?


Your ability to make use of guest data is critical - yet you need to make sure you are using it responsibly.  The consequences of you not paying enough attention to the need to keep personal data safe are serious.

I mean, just look at those teeth!

The power of data is its ability to improve things.  It can be analysed by people who are much cleverer than I am and they can draw conclusions from it which can dramatically improve the livelihoods of other people.  I witnessed this during the Covid pandemic.

Data can also be analysed by machines and artificial intelligence (AI).  The concern about AI is that until it has learned how to do the tasks it is challenged to do it is not much cleverer than I am.  It is however a lot faster than I am.  And that should be a concern for all of us.

You see, something which still has a lot of learning to do, but which is capable of travelling at mind-boggling pace, will be able to make lots of mistakes in many places,...

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If you are using gates on your website - this is why you should stop

marketing Jun 21, 2022

Several emails arrived in my inbox last week inviting me to download the latest blurb about one product or another.

Three of them used what we call "gates" to force website visitors to do behave in a particular way - usually to submit a name and an email address in order to open the gate.

You might not be aware if this is happening on your website.  It might all make sense to you if your web developer or some techno-wizard explained it to you.  Yet from a direct marketing and privacy point of view these gates are a no-no.  They put the handbrake on your ability to make use of the data they forcibly collect.

What gates look like

Here are two examples I came across last week:

  1. A cookie gate
  2. A content gate

 The cookie gate

A cookie gate is the outcome of a badly configured piece of cookie management software.  It indicates whoever set it up didn't know what they were doing.

What happens is "one of those annoying pop-up cookie banners" the UK government is...

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The end of cookie banners? Be careful what you wish for!

data protection marketing Jun 17, 2022

There is much fanfare in the news bulletins this morning about the beginning of the end for ,"those annoying cookie banners" as a result of the release of some information by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

(I blogged about this yesterday - the annoying ones are a direct consequence of feckless, careless configuration and penny-pinching use of technology.  But that's only my opinion.)

It seems the press can't resist jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to presenting data protection and privacy issues to us.  With GDPR it was "the fines" and now with the sort-of-nearly proposed data reforms it is "those annoying cookie banners".

The move to "opt out" as opposed to "opt in" is also doubtless popular amongst those who seek to target you for marketing purposes.  More on that in a moment.

We'll see what happens.  But I will say this:  Be careful what you wish for.

Buried deep in the thinking for these reforms remains the need for "safeguards"...

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Annoying Cookie Banners: It doesn't need to be like this!

data protection marketing Jun 16, 2022

When you're trying to get things done on the internet, pop-up cookie banners can be extremely anoying.

Yet it doesn't need to be this way.  Not if people took the time to configure them them properly.

Unfortunately, most people don't.  Especially most of the people who are responsible for your hotel website.  They don't understand the real purpose - and requirement - for cookies to be controlled.

Instead they are quite happy to allow cookies to be poorly managed and badly controlled.  Which means your website visitors are confused, frustrated or even put at risk.  It can also mean your website doesn't work properly.  Which means you can lose sales and/or look really stupid.

Other people who look stupid when they complain about cookie management are some web developers and politicians who blame this on GDPR.

The requirement to manage cookies on your website is not a GDPR thing.  Instead it is demanded by the "Privacy and Electronic Communications...

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“See Our Privacy Policy” - Seriously? You want me to read your privacy policy??

marketing Mar 13, 2022

Boring, often copied from elsewhere, irrelevant, over-long and missing the point. There is a better way. 

You might recognise the problem straight away.  Especially if you have ever followed a link to a website privacy policy. 

They are brain numbingly boring 

Often they have been copied from a competitors website or are the result of somebody filling in a template but failing to read the instructions first.  

Most of the examples on hotel websites are difficult to find, hidden as they are in the bowels of the home page footer text.  You need to scroll a lot and make sure you’re well prepared.  Wear your best reading glasses… 

Then, having made all that effort, your time is wasted when the business involved completely misses the point.  The information you need is difficult to find (if it is there at all) and the “privacy policy” is about as close to the mythical state of compliance as I am to competing in...

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