Screen shot 2011-02-22 at 2.54.15 PMI keep an eye on a lot of trends in business and online that might impact us or our customers and one we see on the horizon is personal privacy and what is becoming a firmer and firmer set of VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) definition, tools and capabilities.

Here’s a little primer for what you need to look out for –

What is VRM?

VRM is a model of transaction and information management that puts the customer front and center; customers decide what they’ll publish about themselve, to whom and what they (the vendor community) is permitted to do with it.  It kind of takes the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) model, where it’s the company that controls and manages the information about it’s customers turned completely on it’s head.

Why is it Relevant?

With the push to have consumers manage their privacy more effectively online, merchants and retailers in North America will have to be much more cognizant of the data they collect on their customers and how they are permitted to use it.

How Will It Impact Merchants & Retailers?

In the UK, the model already exists that if you cannot secure the data you collect, you may not collect it at all.  Next you can expect the advent of the cookie-less surfer (coming soon in the next version of your popular web browser – all of them) will mean that you must be able to offer the consumer SOMEthing of value to opt them in to your program, which will need to provide the customer the ability to manage any and all data you have on them.  There is a sense that a consumer will ultimately have a single site to manage all their data, but that’s still ahead of us – some VERY smart people are working on it.

No one is sure how this whole thing will settle out and we suspect it will take several years for the customer-centric, VRM to take root, but we do think that it will take root and create a requirement for merchants and retailers to offer unfettered access by consumers to the data the merchant holds on them.

What To Do Today

Plan on giving customers access to their data and allow them to freely opt-in or out of loyalty programs that manage the data relationship between the merchant / retailer and the customer.  Be pro-active on this issue and your customers will applaud you and reward you with comments and referrals to their friends.

cardfree logoSteven Groves is the Online and Social Marketing Strategist for ProfitStreams, LLC.   “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent ProfitStreams’ positions, strategies or opinions.”