Customer experience and data privacy need to go hand-in-hand

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Consumers are burnt and disenchanted with privacy in the 21st-century digital world that has seen endless data breaches, spats about cookies and walled approaches, the pandemic and nonstop disinformation. They’re fed up with tech companies, advertisers and marketers that use their data however and wherever they like. It’s a tenuous relationship at best and their inaction only fuels consumers’ demands for accountability, transparency and change.

As collaborators in the fight to achieve ‘data dignity,’ and give back consumers the right to own their data, the same big questions always come up, “Will big tech ever change by truly putting consumers first and winning their trust? Will governments and global communities finally come together to enact data privacy policies that are comprehensive and effective?”

The simple answer is no, it really doesn’t matter. The better answer would be yes, they’re pioneering that change as we speak. The reality is that we as consumers need solutions now and we’re at a breaking point where trust is at an all-time low. And despite the lack of progress from brands that try to build back trust, they’re missing a crucial element: humanizing the experience. In other words, they need to build empathy for their approach by having open, honest dialogue with consumers that mirrors a human-human interaction built on trust.

In the quest to woo consumers, brands have lost their trust

We as a team have been talking about humanizing data privacy, but perhaps it’s even bigger than that and it’s about reframing the entire customer journey once again. Over the years, brands have gotten so caught up in collecting data to target customers, they’ve lost sight of the human element and that these are real people, not a set of data. Technology has helped our society achieve great things, but it has also eroded trust for progress and innovation.

While these interactions are digital in nature, it doesn’t change the fact that we all want to be treated with the same respect that we have in our personal (human) relationships. To that end, brands need to shift their focus on collecting and leveraging first-party data by getting actual consent from the consumer. Brands can restore consumer trust through this two-way, transparent engagement that doesn’t have any hidden surprises or behind-the-scenes tracking. 

Don’t hold your breath for big tech or data privacy laws

If brands take action now to build a two-way dialogue directly with their consumers, it really won’t matter what the big tech companies do because they won’t be the only path to connection. If we look at common marketing approaches today, they primarily involve customer relationship management solutions (CRM) and customer management platforms (CMP). The challenge is that while they were all a step in the right direction, they weren’t built to easily adapt to changing data privacy issues and consumer needs.

Most of these technologies were developed during a time when data had just gotten ‘big’ and we were at the infancy of understanding our abilities to use this data to create what we called a more ‘personalized’ customer experience. In our quest to personalize the customer experience, we ended up crossing over to the ‘creepy’ side.

And when it comes to data privacy legislation, the focus should be on putting control back in the hands of consumers. Sharing data through positive engagement interactions, as well as opting out, should be easy, seamless and perhaps most importantly well-informed. First and foremost that means knowing why, where and how your data is being used. Given that knowledge, any consumer should be able to enable or revoke brand and any third-party access to all the data that they may have sold or shared. Again, this is built on trust and ‘humanizing’ the exchange of data — we should all be empowered to control our data and be completely comfortable knowing what is (or isn’t) done with it.

Breaking the vicious cycle of new dogs with their old tricks

Not only are new data privacy laws impacting the future of marketing and advertising to consumers, but new approaches as a means to adhere to data privacy laws from Google and Apple are having an impact as well. However, while these steps are thinly veiled attempts to make it look like data privacy is the concern, it’s yet another attempt by big tech to distract from the issue at hand where the consumer no longer has the say.

Tracking customers’ page views, serving up ideas of what they might like in the future and just forgetting to ask what they prefer has become the norm. Brands have a real opportunity to adapt their current infrastructures to build privacy-safe data stores that adhere to compliance and regulations as part of the platform or ecosystem. This allows them to keep using their (first-party) data-driven approach, while allowing consumers to feel assured their data is being protected and they have a voice.

It’s the same problem all over again — brands getting excited to capitalize on the latest trends and, in their frenzy, pushing consumer data privacy concerns aside to get there first. And without Big Tech changing their ways or any comprehensive data privacy legislation coming soon, it’s on brands alone to find the right balance between consumer trust and leveraging human-centric ways of collecting their data that are genuine and transparent.

Jesse Redniss is CEO and cofounder of Qonsent


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