"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Milen Mahadevan, senior vice president and head of client solutions and capabilities at 84.51°.
Data is amazing. It will transform your business and create demand by connecting with customers better. Data can help fulfill demand better. It can realize new levels of efficiency and can create entirely new streams of revenue.
Companies and entire industries are focused on “datafying” everything and anything, amassing and hoarding as much data as possible in the hope that it can be leveraged to create value somewhere in the business. Everyone seems to have an angle on data. Yet few are asking about the “customer” angle on data.
How do customers feel about data?
That is leading to uncomfortable dialogues over who has “control” over it. Government regulation is coming into play, especially with customer behavior and activity data.
You can collect data. You can use it. But it is critically important to also think about how customers feel about it. Do they understand how it is being used? Were they able to opt in or out?
The perfect solution isn’t truly perfect if it breeds distrust and negative sentiment. To address this need, many companies are developing or redeveloping their privacy policies, building preference centers for customers to opt in or out, while also investing in new data and security technologies.
It’s possible to use data solve problems and handle it in a responsible and respectful way, while building trust with customers. The most progressive companies are preparing themselves and the experiences they deliver to customers by setting the proper foundation, giving customers control and making their lives easier.
Solidify The Foundation
Hygiene factors are important, and companies shouldn’t ignore them. But companies must build with a strong foundation, which requires them to ensure that they have reviewed their data governance and security technologies.
They should use the golden rule. In every decision, marketers should ask themselves how to secure, enrich and use any element of customer data as if they were the customer. This must be a change in culture across the organization, from the IT team through to the marketing team, to include everyone and every decision. The technology may be cool, but would customers be OK with it?
Companies should make their privacy policies safe and easy to understand. Marketers should take the lead in adopting adopt progressive, strong policies that really protect customers. They should write it in way customers can actually understand to show customers that their data is held in high regard.
Transparency And Customer Control
By being transparent with what they are doing with data and providing customers with the ability to control its usage, marketers put the customer in control.
Marketers should let the customer choose and opt into how their data is shared. By gathering customer choices and curating them with an opt-in perspective, they can become their customer’s data partner. They can even develop a customer “data care” center that goes beyond channels and communications vehicles.
Customers must be shown the value equation. It’s important to help them understand how their data will be used and with whom it will be shared to put the entire value equation into perspective. There should be a clear customer benefit.
Along the same lines, marketers should explain what customers are seeing and provide control. Customers should be told when and why they receive recommendations based on the data, and given the option to say whether they liked it or not. Being responsive is not just about using data and history – it is listening and letting customers tell you when something is no longer right for them.
Make Lives Easier
Customers are beginning to “approve” the use of their data by opting in to programs. Use the data that customers share to be helpful. Deliver tools and personalization that helps, whether it be recommendations, a planning tool that is prepopulated with useful information or content that is relevant.
Give back better data. Marketers should provide useful, helpful information, whether it’s the nutritional intake of their grocery shopping or the items on which they spend the most money.
When all these aspects come together, they present a powerful way of creating trust with customers. They will then share more data because of that trust.
A great example of bringing everything together is the “My Lowes” program. A single platform that tracks purchases, but also provides tools for essentially cataloging users’ houses, including knowing what types of light bulbs are used in each room and when warranties will expire. By being a trusted partner, Lowes gains much more data than just individual purchases – they understand the ins and outs of each customer’s home.
The data is so cool. The tools and technology are so cool. Yes, some of it is complex, but the answers remain refreshingly simple.
It’s not about the tech or the data. It’s about the customer.
It is not about building new algorithms or fancy systems. It’s just about respect, the golden rule and being helpful. The same guiding principles for being a reputable business for hundreds of years are still in play now.
In this datafied world, customers expect more, and as their awareness of data usage grows, their expectations increase and they will want to engage with companies that value their data as much as they do. In the future customers will shut down access to their data if it isn’t held in the highest regard.
Marketers should constantly ask themselves, “Are you allowing your customers to trust you? Are you taking every step to safeguard their data? Are you being transparent and ensuring they have control? Are you delivering value back to your customers from the usage of their data? Are you being a partner?”
If they can say “yes” to every question, they’ll be one of the companies that lead the way.