As data breaches become more of a normality rather than an anomaly, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the value of their personal data and the risks they face when their data gets compromised.
Brands that have been guilty of this include Hong Kong national airline Cathay Pacific, which suffered a data breach that exposed personal information of up to 9.4 million passengers, Facebook which saw up to 50m users affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Marriott International, which perhaps suffered the biggest data breach in corporate history after losing data of 500m guests.
Even as 98% of people who do not trust Facebook will use it anyway, consumers’ trust of brands overall has arguably dropped to an all-time low and is becoming a great concern to marketers because of consumers’ unwillingness to share data, which affects the progress of marketers looking to offer more personalized marketing experiences.
In its 2019 predictions report, Forrester predicts that consumers will take themselves out of the reach of marketers in 2019 as they will adopt privacy tools and opt-out settings, bringing the hyper-personalization hype train to a halt and forcing marketing to go back to segment-based personalization methods.
So, what do brands need to do to regain consumers’ trust and stay in touch with them instead of paying lip services to data policies? Nicholas Cumins, the general manager of SAP Marketing Cloud tells The Drum brands must embrace data policies, see them as a catalyst to design and deliver a trust-based customer experience as the policies are not there to make the life of the marketers harder, but the experience of the customers better.
“Brands need to not only technically implement the data policies, but also develop a culture of empathy towards their customers, and a willingness to change,” he says. “Marketing employees must have the resources, tools and executive sponsorship to realize the required changes.”
The Forrester report also predicts that because government regulators working on GDPR enforcement need more time with investigations, customers are quick to recognize when a company fails to protect their data and manage their expectations.
For example, data breaches suffered by Carphone Warehouse and British Airways have generated social media riots that law firms have been quick to harness like UK-based law firm Hayes Connor, which created an online form for customers to claim compensation from the companies. This trend is set to rise in 2019, with companies paying more in damage compensation than in regulatory fines.
Dave Reed, the managing director of international business at MediaMath tells The Drum this means the digital marketing industry must accept that consumers today have greater control over their data as transparency is not only necessary at the beginning when consumers are asked to share for their data, but throughout the entire process, allowing consumers to exercise their data rights at any stage.
While many consumers are willing to give out some personal information, he points out that they need to feel confident that the data is not abused and the benefit from the use of their data. Allowing consumers to have full visibility over such processes is critical to prioritizing and creating consumer-first experiences.
“Adopting tools such as the IAB’s Transparency and Consent Framework, which MediaMath helped build in the lead-up to the implementation of the GDPR, are smart ways to ensure transparency in data permissions and usage up and down the supply chain,” he adds.
On concrete steps that brands can take to be positioned as champion of customers’ data privacy in order to continue offering personalized marketing experience, Cumins stress that brands need to understand the difference between transparency and customer empowerment because they need to be very transparent about what data they gather from customers and how they use it to deliver the best-personalized experience.
He points to SAP CX Global Consumer Insights Report 2017, which revealed that the number one reason customers end their relationship with brands is due to a lack of transparency in how their data is used. At the same time, brands need to empower customers to decide what data to share and explain how such data will be used to bring real value.
“Of course, the prerequisite is that brands use software that gives them this level of transparency, allowing them to gather customer consent and permissions at the appropriate level of granularity and enforce these throughout their information system,” says Cumins. “Through the power of artificial intelligence, brands can then make use of the data shared by their customers and engage in a personal and respectful conversation with all of them at scale.”
Preventing 'creepy' personalization
Many marketers are also still struggling to define what ‘omnichannel’ really means, Reed notes, because even though there is a general recognition that consumers have changed and that they need to be addressed appropriately and sequentially throughout the purchase funnel, it is sometimes challenging to determine the right mix of channels to accomplish that goal.
“Having a unified and consistent view of consumers across different channels – being able to identify them, understand their preferences and history of engagement with the company and map out the purchase journey, is key to delivering timely, relevant marketing messages,” he explains.
As more brands and retailers gravitate towards providing omnichannel experiences for their customers, they are ensuring that the personalization does not get too personal. However, Cumins argues that ‘too personal’ is quite subjective because there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, highlighting personalization is not a new issue as some people prefer the personal service of their local store, while others appreciate the anonymity of a megastore.
“Omnichannel is a great opportunity to leverage the strengths of each touchpoint, e.g. personal interaction in store, more anonymous online and highly targeted via e-mail,” says Cumins. “Brands can initiate and tailor the next touchpoint based on their best understanding of their customers’ preferences through AI or based on their explicit preferences when they were able to capture them.”
“The purpose of personalization is not the short-term sale, but to offer an experience to win the customers for life. This can only be achieved if brands understand their customers, care about them and constantly adapt to their needs and desires.”
There are also tools and approaches at marketers’ disposal, such as sequential messaging and frequency capping, that allows them to control how many messages and when customers receive across touch points, says Reed. “Recognizing users regardless of the device via an open, privacy-compliant identity solution helps with improved personalization because marketers know that it is the same consumer browsing on both mobile and desktop and can accurately tailor the messaging accordingly.”
Tools like voice technology can drive meaningful outcomes for the business and restore trust, notes Kirsty Traill, the vice president of customer at Hootsuite, as user trust and brand safety can remain intact by combining the power of voice search and sponsored discovery because the control of the data and how customers interact with that data is completely in control of the customer.
She shares an example of Amazon launching Alexa in the Japanese market, where there is a whole raft of questions outside of the language programming that they need to know and the cultural nuances that people want to know. Amazon unearthed some social issues, in terms of what people are saying to Alexa by analyzing the data that people are asking the voice assistant directly.
With more people living alone and getting married later in Japan leading to higher figures of depression and suicide, the data showed that they were treating Alexa like a friend, saying words like “I'm depressed”.
“With the data that has been gathered, it has been shared top universities to understand what Alexa should say if somebody says "I'm depressed”, explains Traill. “Because you don't want her going out to Wikipedia and saying, “The definition of depression is ...". That's really insensitive.
“Alexa now actually comes back and says, “I'm really sorry to hear that, there are resources you can use”, and it actually starts listing out resources. I think that's a very powerful way that some of these technologies are going to be able to start impacting society. Which is, I think, is really encouraging.”
Does trust go both ways?
While there are no doubt brands need to do more with data privacy, trust also goes two ways with data, says Jess O'Reilly, the regional vice president of Salesforce Marketing Cloud in Asia Pacific, reiterating that fact that even though Facebook is getting bad press for its data privacy breaches, people are using it more than ever.
“We have got to trust that the company does the right thing with our data, but these platforms and these businesses have to trust that customers do the right thing with their platforms as well,” she explains to The Drum. “I think there are a lot of companies that are doing the right things, but I think sometimes consumers are probably overstepping that line and Facebook has some great examples of that.”
Concurring with O'Reilly, Charles Tidswell, the vice president of Japan and APAC at Socialbakers says privacy and security is really a shared responsibility model between the user, the platform and the business looking to reach the user. Noting each actor has a role to play, he points to how social media platforms like Facebook are ramping up their efforts to increase transparency and clean up their platforms.
"These steps are all very important when it comes to ensuring that users are having an authentic experience and the personalization is not getting too personal," Tidswell tells The Drum.
"I don’t believe that the question of data privacy will be answered overnight, it’s an ongoing challenge in the world of IT. 2018 for the social platforms is like what 2002 was for Microsoft when Bill Gates sent the infamous message around their Trustworthy Computing initiative. Every large technology company has its moment of truth around this topic."
Like Rome, for brands to rebuild trust with their consumers, it will not take a day. However, by embracing data policies and truly harnessing the potential of personalization through omnichannel, the middle ground with consumers and brands can be found.