Cambridge Analytica, GDPR and the future of Personalization

Thought Leadership

Consumers today are smarter than ever. They know and mostly accept that with every interaction with any retailer, a data trail of their shopping habits and interests is being captured. However, with the data crisis at Cambridge Analytica earlier this year, along with the recent release of GDPR, there is now heightened awareness and increased scrutiny on how and why companies are collecting customer information. Consumers are more sensitive and protective to how their information is being used. They are demanding greater control over who can access their data.

So what does this mean for personalization?

The latest Omnibus survey published by CROP Marketing Research found that on average 1 out of 2 Canadians (53% to be exact) find it useful to share information with companies in exchange for personalized content and offers1. All indications show that consumer demand for better personalized experiences and offers will only increase. Likewise, companies that are executing personalization well are wining by leveraging consumer insights to differentiate and grow their businesses. There is no doubt that the personalization trend will continue.

So now, retailers are caught in a paradox. Customers are expecting more personalization. Yet, at the same time, they are growing more protective in sharing the data that is required to feed true 1:1 personalization. What is a retailer to do?

Gaining and maintaining consumers’ trust

Let’s face it. With the recent news and events revolving around data, more and more companies will be taking all the necessary steps to ensure their customer information is as secure as possible. Retailers need to be transparent with current and newly acquired customers on the use of their data and the measures being taken to ensure its safety. Featuring various reassurance elements across key interactions and communications can help build credibility and gain customers’ trust and is likely to be a key focus for organizations in the next little while.

Rewarding customers for sharing their information

In addition to being transparent, retailers should also be rewarding customers for choosing to interact with them and sharing their data. Rewards don’t need to be in the form of monetary benefits. Instead, ensuring that when you do interact with returning customers, you’re doing everything you can to leverage what they’ve already shared with you to make their experience all that better. Sending out relevant content and personalized product offers or recommendations on a regular basis are a way to reward them for doing business with you. Analyzing their behavior, purchasing habits and interactions allows you to go a step further and even start predicting their next move. Various advancements in artificial intelligence now allow companies to evaluate and analyze massive amounts of data quickly and efficiently, and be able to predict purchasing intent and recommend products or offers at the most appropriate time based on previous interactions, all while taking other external factors to account that can also influence purchases (weather, events, news, etc.). How’s that for being relevant and pertinent? This also allows retailers to demonstrate that they’ve taken the time to understand customers’ needs and preferences and are doing what they can do ensure relevancy -which is one of the most rewarding benefits today, given the amount of information that is currently being received and processed by consumers daily. And this doesn’t only apply to marketing communications, but interactions across other channels. For example, when a customer calls into a contact service center to ask a question or raise a concern, organizations are taking the initiative of updating that interaction in real time, so that relevant parties across all the organizations can get a 360-degree view of the customer in terms of preferences or dislikes to better respond to their needs in the future.

Here’s the key point: data capture and sharing are here to stay - consumers are seeing the benefits through enhanced interactions and experiences and organizations that leverage client insights outperform their peers in sales growth and customer engagement. It’s a win-win situation.

For the 47% of Canadians who don’t see the value in sharing or are reluctant to sharing their personal information to receive personalized offers, CROP Marketing Research’s study also confirmed that this opposition is mainly driven by ideology and philosophy. These individuals are afraid that organizations will be using their personal information to push through products they don’t really need. They tend to care a lot about protecting the environment and are against excessive consumerism. Knowing this allows companies to better cater their approach. Aside from personalized product recommendations and offers, what else can be pushed to customers to enhance their experience? Building content revolving around the good deeds your organization is working on, policies about helping the environment and specific social work are great success stories to share and to incorporate within your interactions with customers. These can easily be incorporated within triggered email communications as soon as customers start being exposed to your brand for example as you welcome them in. Pushing through pertinent content is likely to help convert some sceptics about personalization. It's important to start working on building brand trust first and then gradually begin to open the door to collecting more and more data, providing the basis and benefit to what and why you are doing so, all while ensuring the information is kept secure.

1 see reference
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