Just Because You Can Collect Customer Data Doesn’t Mean You Should

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 Scott Tieman, global head of programmatic services at Accenture Interactive.

Many brands collect prolific customer data without having a clear idea of how they will put it to good use. That’s not acceptable anymore.

People expect brands to protect their privacy, and regulators are holding brands to it. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act are being interpreted and implemented. Regulators are already imposing substantial enforcement fines. In addition to regulatory consequences, brands face the risk of negative publicity if their advertising practices are seen as out of bounds.

Fortunately, brands that take a mindful and humane approach to collecting a person’s data and use it to create a better experience for that person have a big opportunity to stand out. The best path to using customer data requires a systematic approach, scaled across the organization.

Acquire data with purpose

People’s attitudes toward data privacy can vary somewhat with demographic factors, including age, gender or even geolocalization. Regardless, they don’t want brands to go too far and violate their privacy when delivering a custom experience. For instance, most people aren’t yet comfortable with their data being collected via a microphone or voice assistant.

One key tenet of a brand’s data strategy that should be shared by all is that brands should only collect data that will be put to good use. Brands may wish they could stitch together every available data source, but they should resist the urge if it doesn’t add clear value to the customer experience.

Be transparent about what data is being collected and why

An effective route to creating a great customer experience is building a respectful, empathetic and audience-aware strategy that uses available information in a rightful and transparent manner. Brands should be upfront from the start about what data they have collected, how they are protecting it and how they intend to use it.

For many brands, this means bringing ad tech contracts in house to give them ownership over their advertising data and how it gets used.

Give customers control over their data

People have preferences for how they want brands to interact with them digitally. One consistent finding is that customers want control over their data and have more favorable views of brands that give them that control.

Brands can create the best possible experience by using fresh opt-in alternatives to track people, such as encouraging consumers to authenticate on websites and mobile applications. And brands must also make it clear how and when consumers can opt out.

Put data to use for customers in ways that truly make their lives better

Many people don’t feel brands know them well enough to serve them in a way that makes them feel special, but they don’t like it when brands seem to know too much and act on that knowledge in an over-the-top manner. Brands that use data to add value by creating customer experiences that solve problems will have an edge.

Many people ultimately want digital advertising to have the same social intelligence as a familiar salesperson in their favorite store – one who can tell from the expression on their face that they’re in the mood to splurge or that they’re in a hurry because it’s a Tuesday night and they need to get home to dinner.

The more brands’ digital advertising can behave like a salesperson in a store asking thoughtful questions to figure out what a person would like to buy, the more accurately they’ll reflect that person’s actual intention and become a valuable resource.

Remove data that’s no longer needed

Data breaches erode trust in brands. Period.

Destroying data that’s no longer needed as quickly as possible can help brands prevent these scenarios. Being meticulous about protecting customer data will allow brands to continue to build the trust of the consumers they serve, one interaction at a time.

In the end, it’s all about being sensitive to the consumer. Digital advertising tools may not be able to replicate the experience consumers get when they interact with a person face to face, but the more human intelligence and judgement inform a brand’s interactions with a consumer throughout the buying journey, the better the customer experience will be.

Follow Scott Tieman (@Scott_Tieman), Accenture Interactive (@AccentureACTIVE) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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