At first, this appears to be an extraordinary windfall for marketers. But imagine the protests if every store required you to agree everything you look at or purchase, your footsteps, facial expressions and heart rate, interactions with family, friends and staff became property of the store.
It would be an affront to an age-old social contract. Yet somehow, we've allowed online services to capture all of this and more.
But the jig is up. There is a global awakening going on about the amount, persistence and personal nature of the data brands have about all of us. Customers want control over it and assurances it will be used for specific purposes for their benefit.
Brands should be careful not to get so caught up in the compliance struggle they miss the seismic shift in cultural zeitgeist that new regulations such as GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act represent. Because how you treat customer data is ultimately the litmus test for how you're treating your customers.
Perhaps the greatest change required of marketers is a philosophical one. It's been said data is the new oil and currency. If you believe your personal data is nothing more than a natural resource for corporations to own, extract and exploit for profit, then, by all means, stop reading.
Taking such an approach is the first step towards delivering poor customer experiences. Mishandling personal data is an emotional trigger. If you believe brand preferences are at their root emotional, you get what's at stake.
Consent is the new currency
Treat consent as the new currency, something to be exchanged for value. Without opt-in, customer data is worthless. This makes consent one of the most valuable commodities in the digital economy.
Customers are beginning to know this and thanks to advances in consumer AI, controlling and even automating consent will be increasingly convenient for them. As such control becomes automated, two things will separate dominant brands from the pack:
- Top brands will develop new approaches and competencies for using data as a customer service;
- Top brands will ensure consumers get more than they give.
Consent is the floor on which brands can start to build much more trusted and influential relationships with customers. Moving up the hierarchy of customer expectations requires both an enterprise platform and a community to manage data and consent.
The community should include all customer-facing functions and nurture a culture of customer-centric service. Key values include: The way you treat your customer data is the way you treat your customers; and data is the thread that weaves and facilitates customer-centric culture.
Marketers will distinguish their brands by how they leverage data and consent across channels. The ad team can A/B test faster than the email team, for example. The social team can track sentiment at events in real time. Communications can drive segmentation based on article consumption.
As marketers strive to move up the hierarchy, this must be extended across functions. Contact centres can inform marketing about complaints before upsell emails go out. Marketing can help finance forecast renewals by running 30/60/90-day advance campaigns. Services can help product marketers better monetise underused features.
The key is to enable and educate teams that serve your customers about how exchanging data between them can elevate their ability to deliver outstanding customer experiences.
The days of opt-in being a 'won and done' transaction are over. The way marketers manage customer data and consent will be an increasingly important factor in brand preference.
Brands that use customer data for the customer's benefit will find themselves in a virtuous cycle where the buyer is willing to share more and more because they trust the brand and because they get more back than they give. This will translate into deeper, longer and more beneficial relationships for both parties.