When it comes to data, marketers are under pressure to not only capture it, but to use it to good effect. The problem is that marketers have become adept at the first half of that equation and are now struggling to figure out the second half. Given how new marketing channels have come to the surface over the last few years — think social, voice and VR/AR marketing — there’s a tidal wave of data crashing down on marketers. The deluge is so great that marketers risk drowning in data if they can’t figure out how to navigate their way through it all.
But it isn’t all bad news — having data is good, so long as you know what you have, why it matters to your goals, and how to use it to inform the next wave of consumer engagement. The next five years will focus on exactly this, with brands rethinking how they approach data strategies and determining which precise data points hold the most value. Only then will brands be able to effectively utilize and measure marketing strategies against bigger goals; beyond open rates, site visits and the like.
The Role Privacy Plays In Consumer Relationships
To be fair, data and the way we approach it has changed, and some of us are unsure of how to keep up. With data privacy coming into focus over the last few years, regulators are now getting involved and prohibiting poor data practices. Regulations like GDPR, ePrivacy and the newly passed California Consumer Privacy Act are forcing brands to revisit and refocus data capturing practices and be more diligent in understanding which data points are valuable to the brand. This is a good thing. While marketers are under increasing pressure to know customers more intimately, they are looking at data with clear goals in mind, learning quickly what is useful and doing away with what is not. As a result, we’re seeing marketers adapting and ultimately doing a better job of creating data-driven customer experiences than ever before.
On the consumer side, people are generally more aware of how their data is being captured and used and are unfortunately increasingly more unwilling to provide it. While challenging, this too is an opportunity to clarify data practices and fortify customer relationships, through transparent data gathering operations and over-communication of the intentions behind how consumer data is being used. Privacy policies are beginning to clear some of the fog associated with the ‘too-much-data’ problem for marketers, with regulations pushing marketers to focus and develop intentional data programs. Ultimately, intentional data and open communication enables brands to meet rising consumer expectations for personalized experiences.
Where Data, Ethics, And New Technology Meet
Most of my time is spent with Selligent Marketing Cloud’s clients, and in the last year, conversations about responsible approaches to data have been on the rise. Many know that they need to refresh their data strategies, but surprisingly not everyone is clear on the ‘new rules.’ Brand marketers need to first understand what their current data programs look like — how are they capturing data, what are they capturing, and how they intend to use that data — and the regional impacts. Europe must comply with GDPR and ePrivacy regulations, and California needs to comply with the newly formed California Consumer Privacy Act. Many brands operate across regions so that is a consideration as well.
Once you have a clear understanding, you can really start honing your data and leverage it to improve customer relationships. A few tips to consider:
- Determine which data points are valuable. More often than not, brands realize they have far more data than they could ever use. Understanding marketing goals and expecting to pivot as those evolve is critical to avoid data practices that get stale — and therefore diminish data’s value. Focusing on which data points really represent your customer base and preferences will point to trends and opportunities that you might otherwise miss if you were less intentional in your data practices.
- Develop a data framework that accurately reflects your brand goals and needs, and reconcile them against ethical guidelines. CIO columnist Josh Fruhlinger recently penned a lengthy guide to help brands determine if they need an ethics policy as it relates to data. While it’s not necessary for everyone, most marketers would argue that having an ethics-driven data framework is useful in setting clear boundaries and keeping them focused. According to the article, “In the wake of numerous data lapses and incidents of personal data being monetized in ways users never expected, consumer trust is dropping — according to a recent survey from Selligent, 75% of consumers are worried about brands tracking their browsing behavior...It's become more urgent than ever for organizations to establish a code of ethics, laying down strict guidelines to circumscribe potentially dubious actions.” Fruhlinger offers tips including following these five ethical themes: security, individual control, segmentation, behavioral change, and incentivization. Having an ethics policy builds trust and loyalty between brands and consumers and serves as a foundation for customer relationships that are built to last.
- Make Use of New Technologies. September’s DMEXCO conference gave a glimpse into up-and-coming marketing technologies that are designed to make better use of data in addition to uncovering opportunities and insights from customer interactions. Georg Loewen, head of Marketing for Selligent in DACH (DACH is an acronym for D — Deutsch/German, A — Österreich/Austria, CH — Schweiz/Switzerland) noted that the conference focused heavily on AI technology and its impact on digital marketing and the overall customer experience. Much of what we learned centers on the areas AI can be leveraged so marketers can focus on value, including marketing automation areas like dynamic delivery of creative and programmatic brand engagement. There is a lot of promise for AI in customer service and search as well, which is critical in ensuring healthy customer relationships. AI is also red-flagging problem areas that need to be addressed by marketers more immediately, to stave off customer dissatisfaction.
Developing every data strategy with consumer relationships and experiences in mind will help brands stay focused and best utilize existing data sets for the benefit and success of the customers and brands alike.
Nick Worth is CMO at Selligent Marketing Cloud. He is a marketing expert whose diverse career experience has given him unique insights into the rise of digital consumer engagement. Worth writes for more than a dozen trade publications and speaks to marketers about the impact of technology on marketing, strategies for engaging Millennials, and the many challenges presented by omnichannel marketing. Prior to Selligent, Worth was cofounder of Schematic, one of the world’s first and most successful digital agencies. He took the company from a small startup to an agency of more than 350 digital professionals servicing brands like NBC, Google and Sony. A graduate of Harvard College and Oxford University, he lives in London. Connect with the Selligent team at Twitter, LinkedIn, and its blog.