Today, brands are faced with trawling through massive amounts of data to attempt to personalise their consumer’s experience.But consumers have evolved. They’ve always been money-conscious; consumers of the 21st century are eco-conscious, socially-conscious and health-conscious. In the past year, “data-consciousness” has surfaced as a new and potent type of awareness.
This gives rise to a paradox that customer experience professionals must navigate for their brand to be successful: customers want personalisation, but don’t wish to share the requisite data to enable it.
How can brands evolve their data collection processes to match the evolution of the data-conscious consumer?
The origins of a data-conscious species
1995 saw the launch of the Tesco Clubcard in the UK. As of 2017, they had over 17 million users in the UK. Its success can be referred back to its prioritising of consumer preferences through targeted discounts: the collection of data happened in exchange for monetary reward.
But for customers, the cherry on top was that the scheme introduced a personal touch.The buyer of the Hovis Wholemeal Seeded Loaf, having bought it as their bread of choice in their weekly shop for years, would be pleased to see a price drop in their favourite seeded loaf – just for them. The popularity of the initiative grew, and with it, consumer understanding of where their data was going. Data became conceptualised as the beginning of a larger process, rather than a one-off giveaway.
Years later, GDPR became the biggest legal milestone in the data trail. Where the role of managing data historically had sat with the Chief Financial Officer, it shifted to the Chief Data Officer in a bid to re-characterise customer data as both personal and precious, rather than solely a financial asset.
Consumers simultaneously grew their data-consciousness, to the point we see today, where more sceptical consumers demand total transparency from their brand interactions.
Being conscious of the data-conscious
What should brands do to be respectful of this?
One answer is to sort customers into exactly the kinds of segment which data-collection allows; but by data-collection preference. Even if you don’t have requisite information to know their exact preference, it’s possible to ballpark customer preferences based on other behaviours and demographic data.
On closer inspection, customers can be categorised into three groups: the unconcerned, the pragmatist, the fundamentalist. “The unconcerned” gives willingly and is ambivalent (or even, unaware) of transactions. “Pragmatists” are more likely to be willing if they’re exchanging their data for a service. “Fundamentalists” are not willing to give data at all.
For each, it’s appropriate to act accordingly. Pragmatists want a clear sense of exchange and display of value; provide that. Fundamentalists want a show of respect; give them that.
For the unconcerned, perhaps it’s best to show them there’s nothing to worry about should they slide along the chain. Unconcerned teenagers become pragmatist adults. They take on assets. They understand the value of their data more. With the rise in high-profile cyber attacks in 2018 – Under Armour, Facebook, British Airways – retaining trust, in a post-trust era, is the biggest challenge for your brand.
A second big challenge is discerning whether the information provided by customers is fake or not. Fear of of phishing scams combined with a simply huge volumes of emails entering each inbox means that 50% of customers don’t open emails after only one transaction. Should an organisation then delete the data of those not interacting? Or should you attempt to reach out to the disengaged to demonstrate understanding?
Evolving alongside the data-conscious
It has become crucial to using consumer’s data that you demonstrate you’re working on their terms: the value exchange should be equal to the conversion rate of personalisation and convenience.
Spotify represents the perfect conversation rate in this respect. Consumers build up a digital picture of their music taste simply through using the service, which results in personalised playlists that help consumers discover new artists that they are algorithmically likely to enjoy. Make-up giant Sephora similarly drive their consumer interaction through personalised data analysis: targeted questions tailor products to consumer needs, unburdening them of the necessity to scroll through endless shades of lipsticks to find the right one. The data analysis has already found the right shade. The result: a satisfied customer and a successful brand.
Fixing fragmented journeys to ensure consumer convenience is the next part of perfecting this value exchange. In an age where consumers interact with brands across both digital and physical touchpoints, this is easier said than done. Aligning the data collection, the brand and the personalisation across all these channels is renowned to be the difficulty of creating customer experience.
The secret to this is simple: the fewer people involved in designing the customer journey and analysing their data, the less communication is required across the organisation and thus, friction is reduced for all involved. It becomes more agile and efficient; the process is streamlined.
Personalisation is a fundamentally human process; we cannot leave it to algorithmic analysis alone. Understanding the value exchange in human terms is crucial to success of evolving alongside the data-conscious consumer. Marketing becomes a shared evolutionary process: as the consumer evolves, so must the brand. Data simply provides a means for this change.
The “marketing to the data-conscious” breakfast took place on Thursday 6th of December. It was conducted in partnership with Celerity, a data and technology agency. Speakers included Graeme McDermott, the Chief Data Officer at Addisson Lee.