As an industry, we are going through some huge changes and face an increasingly challenging task of making our message more relevant to today's online customer. With growing concern about privacy, spam on the increase, pop-up ads and flashing banners, customers are tuning out and our job is becoming harder - yet we have no one to blame but ourselves.
We need to win back the trust of our customers. We need to do it now through self-regulation and team work before our current freedoms are hampered by legislation, made by people who don't understand our industry. We must learn to encourage our customers to pull, and we can only do this by building their collective confidence. Our actions must reflect rather than contradict what we say. We must start demonstrating respect.
Online users are fickle. There is little loyalty as they hop from one site to another and this makes it a harder proposition to grab their attention. Unfortunately, our 'attention-seeking' has had the opposite effect, and we are now sending our customers scurrying away as fast as they can.
When I was filling in a form online just last week, I was asked to disclose my name, my sex, date of birth, phone number, email address, occupation, average household income, marital status, postcode, my mother's maiden name and the colour of my eyes. I would not have been surprised to be asked how I voted in the last election and what I ate for breakfast that day.
As a customer, I ask: "Why do you need to know any and all of that information to provide me with a service?" As marketer, we justify it by delivering a highly personalised one-to-one communication. But, as an industry, we need to take a step back and start to consider the customer. Concern is high but initiatives to tackle the problem are scarce.
That's why the digital industry needs to take an active role in self-regulation and face today's challenges. By ensuring the protection of both individual privacy and the integrity of the internet, consumer confidence will be enhanced and e-commerce can reach its astounding potential.
Christophe Asselin is the group communications manager at DMG World Media in London.