Ecommerce Privacy Policy: Why it Matters And How You Can Create One

Ecommerce Privacy Policy: Why it Matters And How You Can Create One

What is an Ecommerce Privacy Policy

An eCommerce privacy policy explains to customers how you will handle, manage, and protect their personal information. 

It’s the pop-up on every website that everyone immediately wants to close. While it might not seem as high a priority as mastering your Shopify development skills, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve your attention. 

Your privacy policy is a legal declaration, and missing out on key points or not adhering to your policy can cause you business-threatening problems down the road. Trying to write one yourself can be confusing and time-consuming. That’s why this article exists — to guide you through creating your very own eCommerce privacy policy.

Why Your Ecommerce Privacy Policy Matters

You might already be trading without a privacy policy, in which case you might ask yourself whether you really need one.

The hassle of coming up with a well-researched, bespoke policy for yourself might seem like it outweighs the risks, but as your eCommerce store grows, the risks of a catastrophic problem grow exponentially.

Benefits of your Ecommerce Privacy Policy

Due to its importance, online privacy is enshrined in law. Selling without a privacy policy is the modern equivalent of operating without a license. You’ll open yourself up to legal action.

As a result, many third-party apps and services will require you to have a privacy policy in order to use them. Google’s business tools like AdSense and Analytics require you to have a privacy policy. 

It’s easier to think of privacy policies online than it is over the phone or through other points of contact. Whichever commercial phone systems you use should have a way to direct customers towards your privacy policy.

A comprehensive eCommerce privacy policy can open doors to tools and partnerships and shut down one avenue of potential lawsuits. It’s a win-win.

Creates Trust with Customers

Privacy policies are required by law in most countries, but that’s not the only reason to implement them. There are other advantages offered by having a clear and robust privacy policy that may not be obvious from the outset.

Online privacy is the subject of many heated debates and with good reason. The gross misuse of personal data has become a hot topic in recent years and customers are becoming increasingly aware of how their information might be misused.

To process customers’ orders, you’ll process sensitive information about them — their name, address, card details, spending habits, and so on. To buy from you, especially more than once, customers will need reassurance that their data will be well looked after. This is especially true if you are using third-party integrations like Shopify inventory management software.

Your privacy policy is the perfect place to ensure customers that you’re up to date and full of integrity when it comes to their sensitive information. This will make it easier for them to justify buying from you and not a competitor who may be more cagey about how they use information.

This will allow you to build long-standing relationships with your customers, which will also make them more likely to recommend your product or service to people they know. 

This is especially true in ‘intimate’ sectors like the hotel industry, where there is prolonged contact with customers and certain sensitive information, gleaned from the state of their rooms, may be exposed. As effective as using hotel SEO to boost website traffic is cultivating an atmosphere of discretion and privacy that builds deep trust.

As well as the necessary legal jargon, it can help to provide a short customer-friendly summary of your privacy policy. This demonstrates to customers that your eCommerce privacy policy isn’t just a legal requirement, it’s an important resource for customers to better understand their relationship with you.

Steps to Creating a Privacy Policy

While it can be tempting to just copy a privacy policy from a similar website, doing so could land your business in trouble. A missing clause about an issue that applies to you or a poorly phrased passage can open you up to legal action from customers and/or partners.

With this guide you should feel well-equipped to create your own eCommerce privacy policy — it’s not as daunting a task as it seems. But first of all, you should know what you need and want to include in your privacy policy.

What Should Your Privacy Policy Include

Every privacy policy should outline how and why you collect data from your customers. How you record the data, how you will record it and store it, and how long you will keep it for before deleting it are all necessary to include.

There may also be specific terms that you need to include for your eCommerce store, related to who your customers are and what you sell, as well as how you process payments and which third-party apps and services you use. Optimizing communications within remote development teams will ensure that there aren’t any gaps or misunderstandings in how your operation actually processes customer data.

Google’s own privacy policy begins with a clear, simple message explaining what it is about.

What information are you collecting from customers?

What information are you collecting and what do you plan to use it for? This is the first and most important thing to convey to visitors on your site. This, after all, is the foundation of data and privacy.

For example, if you are collecting a user’s email address, state explicitly whether it will be used for essential updates or general marketing and communications as well.

Bear in mind that if you record meetings with customers and clients you are collecting a ton of information about them. Whether you use WebEx or a WebEx alternative for your video conferencing, be sure to make it clear the video recordings are part of your privacy policy.

The most common method of automated data collection is through cookies. People are more conscious of the data which they explicitly enter, for example, while filling out forms. Tracking tools like cookies are far more subtle, and it is crucial to be clear with customers if you are collecting information this way.

Cookies also involve you storing information on the visitor’s device. This should be made clear to them. Presenting cookies as a necessary evil is good and transparent, but you should also talk about the benefits of allowing cookies. Explain that it will be easier to log in and checkout when the customer returns to the site and that other site-specific features may be available to them. 

If you are collecting information over the phone, consider how VoIP systems like this magicjack alternative can streamline the process in a way that is transparent to customers.

What are you doing with customer information?

Making it clear what you plan to do with collected data is an absolute must. You should outline any instances where you plan to release, share, or sell customer information with third-party services or other organizations.

One of the most popular uses of customer information is remarketing. Recommending products to them based on what they have purchased before, the items in their cart or what similar customers have bought in the past. Use cases like these should be explained in your privacy policy.

If you are growing your ecommerce business using social media, you will likely be collecting more information than you currently know what to do with. If you do discover new use cases for the data you have stored, be sure to update your privacy policy, inform existing customers and ask for their explicit consent before you begin.

Age Matters

Depending on the content of your site, you should determine if any age restrictions or warnings may be necessary. 

This is especially important when it relates to children. In most cases, there should be separate provisions about collecting and processing the data of children and this should be made clear to parents.

Have you specified a minimum age for viewing content on your site? Does your website allow purchases without parental consent? 

You may be worried about children who enter their age incorrectly or refuse to heed your warnings. The best you can do is to be very clear about your policy and take action wherever you can verify that your policy has been breached. This will demonstrate your intent to follow the regulations.

Creating a Privacy Policy

Creating a privacy policy on your own from scratch would be a daunting task. Thankfully there are a number of ways to streamline the process.

The first step in creating a robust privacy policy is to get advice from a legal professional, whether your own counsel or through consultation with a third party. This is the best way to ensure that you’ve crossed your i’s, dotted your t’s and haven’t missed anything crucial.

Expenses in this area at an early stage can save you damages down the road. It is well worth the investment if you are unsure. 

Online Privacy Policy Generator

Once you have received legal advice, you are well placed to generate a privacy policy using an online generator. You will know what to include and what to leave out. Even if your finance team balked at the idea of spending money on a lawyer, you should have an idea of what you need to include from this guide.

These generators generally require you to configure and tailor the settings towards your needs. Once you have done so, you can generate your policy at the click of the button.

Privacy Policy Template

If you really need a privacy policy immediately, there are many privacy policy templates you can use which require minimal changes. Bear in mind that these are far less likely to cover all the areas which you might require.

The templates are really a stop-gap measure until you can put something more permanent in place, but for this they are invaluable.

Tips to Keep your Privacy Policy Tight

Once you’ve created your privacy policy, be sure that it’s easily visible on your website. A popup should appear to the user whenever they enter your site and there are no existing cookies associated with them. 

There should also be a link to your privacy policy in the footer of your site that appears at the bottom of each page.

Make it easy for customers to opt-in or opt out of their information being collected. Some sites will try to ‘trick’ visitors into agreeing to cookies or make it unnecessarily difficult to refuse. This simply makes them look desperate at best and malevolent at worst.

The most trustworthy sites include all the options, clearly presented and written in plain English. One option might read something like ‘I don’t want to be tracked’ which makes everything very clear to visitors. Simple language is one of the many ways to differentiate your Shopify online store. As in all areas, transparency is the foundation of trust. 

Finally, remember that if you update your business practices, chances are you need to update your privacy policy.

Closing Thoughts

You will by now have all the information and resources you need to whip up your very own comprehensive privacy policy.

While it can feel unglamorous or even unnecessary at first, the right privacy policy presented in a friendly but no-nonsense way can form the initial thrust of a solid first impression.

Your privacy policy is a chance to not just follow protocol, but to highlight your values. Think about how you can turn the conversation around privacy from one about risks to one about mutual rewards. Your customers will thank you.

Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams for call center customer experience best practices and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Jessica Day also published articles for domains such as AirDroid and Clipchamp. Here is her LinkedIn.

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