It’s a pretty basic tenet of marketing: know your customers’ needs, desires, and preferences. Technology and data advancements give marketers the ability to tap into the most minute consumer details from behavioral data to purchasing patterns. But there may be a price to pay.
There’s been much debate about how much and to what degree consumers are willing to exchange information about their buying behavior, habits, and other details about their lives for a more personalized and meaningful brand experience. Some consumers are worried that devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Home are recording their conversations to collect their data and violate their privacy. Last summer everyone was fixated on the Facebook congressional hearings and how Mark Zuckerberg would address the use and selling of consumer data, as well as the use of third-party players.
But herein lies the question, one I continuously ask: Are we giving consumers enough credit in their acknowledgement that there is a give and get in the world of consumer data?
As an example, most consumers have grown to appreciate Amazon’s intuitive recommendations and top picks. Consumers will willingly share information in exchange for something they perceive as valuable. We as marketers must use customer intelligence to provide a meaningful and memorable experience that doesn’t cross the line into creepy. This is a multi-faceted strategy that comes down to a few core principles:
- Build a brand’s good will and trust, to the point that consumers seek it out and welcome interaction with brand messages
- Establish transparency and trust with consumers concerning the collection and usage of data and give consumers control over their data (e.g., the ability to opt-out)
- Rigorously protect and defend the systems and networks that house the data
- Strictly adhere to data protection and privacy regulations around the world
The unifying factor is data — and the intelligence about consumers that comes from analyzing massive amounts of it and formulating models that predict buying behavior. Marketers able to harness intelligence about customers more quickly and effectively will win when it comes to targeting consumers at the right moment in the buying cycle. Those doing it responsibly will bolster their brand’s reputation and build long-term consumer trust and goodwill.
We’re seeing these principles of customer intelligence play out across emerging omnichannel marketing avenues where advertising decisions are being driven by machine learning algorithms.
Today, newer channels such as connected television (CTV) offer marketers the ability to deliver more intimate engagements between consumers and brands based on data-driven consumer insights. And these relevant messages and offers are often welcomed. Thanks to advancements in consumer intelligence data, consumers actually appreciate personalized messages based on specific details and demographics of an advertiser’s buying audience.
Consider HGTV, the wildly popular home improvement network. According to Yahoo News, “together, Gen Z and millennials account for 55% of HGTV’s audience.” Further, HGTV viewers are 62% female, 32% graduated college, and 30% have annual incomes over $100K, [according to Comcast]. Coupling in-depth knowledge of customer attributes with advanced analytics that yield insights into purchasing and behavioral behavior makes it possible to stream ads with the highest likelihood of conversion for the marketer and builds brand loyalty and trust for the consumer because it provides them with relevant content that resonates with them.
Increased consumer intelligence allows for a symbiotic relationship between an advertiser and a consumer based on a mutually understood trust that the advertiser will protect and care for their data and use it wisely and the consumer will receive intrinsic value from it. Again, consumers don’t want their time wasted or to be delivered irrelevant messaging. If content and offers are relevant and tailored to their likes and needs, they’ll respond accordingly.
Corporate social responsibility has grown in popularity with the idea of making an impact on society as a whole and building goodwill with buyers. Organizations are leveraging support of social causes into powerful marketing messages that speak to buyers who share those values. According to research by Cone Communications, “87% percent [of respondents] said they’d purchase a product because that company advocated for an issue they cared about, and more than three-quarters (76%) would refuse to purchase a product if they found out a company supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.”
Given those numbers, knowledge of the values and beliefs of the buying audience is critical before any company takes on cause-related marketing. Recent headlines bear this out: Nike reported a 10% growth in income, largely due to increased sales following its ad campaign featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Despite calls for a boycott, Nike’s knowledge of its customers buoyed its confidence that buyers would respond positively.
Organizations that reap the benefits of using customer data must also protect that data from malicious or negligent actors both inside and outside the company. Overburdened IT and security departments can no longer be the only ones concerned with the protection of valuable data assets. Just as HR departments take an active role in protecting employee data, marketing teams must be security-minded and proactive in protecting customer data and give consumers the ability to control their personal information, as well as easily opt-out.
According to a recent report by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a breach involving 1 million records was nearly $40 million, and the cost of a breach totaling 50 million records was estimated to be $350 million. This includes direct and indirect costs, such as those for detecting and mitigating the breach, along with legal expenses, customer defections, opportunity loss and reputation management.
In addition to taking security seriously, marketers must also be versed in and embrace data privacy regulations. Most marketers know how to comply with CAN-SPAM laws and have learned how to “opt-out” a consumer’s data to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). But do they know about California’s Consumer Privacy Act or Vermont’s regulations on data broker registrations? Marketers must know and embrace all privacy and compliance regulations to maintain brand trust.
Nearly every aspect of marketing is focused on building brand equity and loyalty. Comprehensive customer intelligence helps to create a positive brand experience; it also protects the social pact between consumers and brands that there is an underlying agreement for authenticity and transparency. Nothing will torpedo a consumer trust and goodwill created than a data breach, privacy violation, or continuous marketing garbage that has nothing to do with their wants, likes, or needs.
Dave Dague is chief marketing officer of Infutor