Trust, The Currency of Data
Stranger, acquaintance or friend?
I love meeting new people. That interesting period in which a stranger becomes an acquaintance and maybe even a friend. So, what is it that takes someone from being only an acquaintance to a friend? Well, if you don’t share a certain level of trust, chances are they’re no more than an acquaintance, and I think any brand will agree, being an ‘acquaintance’ with your customers just won’t cut it these days to achieve real loyalty, let alone advocacy.
In person we tend to greet each other with either a handshake, hi-5 or hug, depending on our relationship. Digitally we have a similar concept, through authentication of some form, such as ‘logging in’ to a website or app and providing our personal information. And whether the authentication equates to a handshake or hug, I suppose could be measured by the level of information you have shared with said website or app. But the point is, a level of trust is required, and a level of experience is expected.
Today APAC brands that choose to invest in customer experience are achieving an average revenue growth rate of 23%, compared with 13% of other companies. Whether it’s that friendly bank who looks after all our financial needs or the airline who comfortably gets us where we need to go and back safely to our families, the right data is a key pillar in driving these great experiences. Since, how else would it be known to present you with experience A or B unless we knew basic preferences or interests?
Trust & data
So at this point I hope we appreciate data is key to driving great experiences (or at the very least ensuring a lack of bad ones) and the good news is the latest research from the Association for Data-driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA) suggests that over 70% of customers are willing to exchange identifiable data for better services. The highest ranked factor for doing so? … Yep, you guessed it, trust (in the organisation).
Now it’s important to note, building trust and getting your customers to authenticate, or log-in can be extremely challenging for organisations. Historically speaking, we may ask why bother when we could instead track users anonymously with the likes of cookies and device IDs? Well, as we’ll now see, consent, transparency and control of digital data are becoming front of mind to both the consumer and governments alike, which, in turn, is resulting in the restriction of data collection and what it can be used for.
The increasing restrictions to data
In recent years, with the emergence of regulations such as GDPR, The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, the Australian Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Bill 2016, Implementing Rules and Regulations supplementing the Philippines Data Privacy Act of 2012, Vietnam’s National Assembly passed Law on Cybersecurity, along with others globally potentially following suit, we see official regulations are being adopted to protect user’s data and increase transparency along with reasonable use and retention of data.
‘Walled gardens’, such as social platforms and an increasing number of publishers are also restricting access to their user’s data by rejecting or blocking trackers for a mixture of privacy, compliance and commercial reasons. Thus, restricting insights from other brands and platforms.
Lastly, from a technology standpoint, we see user focused trends occurring with web browsers further restricting trackability by default, such as Safari’s intelligent tracking prevention (ITP2.0) and recent Firefox updates. This may suggest previously (industry) adopted, cookie based, opt out mechanisms were simply not enough.
Considering many of these cookies and trackers are for marketing and advertising purposes, Brave browser looks to push things further and potentially disrupt the entire advertising ecosystem (essentially the activation of data), by not only blocking trackers but also placing users in control of whether or not they wish to see ads at all. If they choose to be served ads they will then be rewarded directly with a form of ‘crypto currency’. Users can then use these blockchain based tokens within the browser and make micropayments to the publishers and content creators of their choice. So, as browsers start to block data collection, taking the control away from publishers, brands and agencies, and allowing users to begin to authenticate for personalised browsing across device, will these browsers become the new gate keepers of behavioural and device graph data?
While these initiatives do positively drive both user control and better site performance, it does pose new challenges to experience driven businesses in understanding their customers’ behaviours and preferences. After all, data is the ‘voice’ of the customer and if you can’t ‘hear what they are saying’, how can you make informed decisions on your products and services to provide better experiences?
So, what now?
With this slow death of trackers and the increasing restrictions on what data can be tracked and used without consent, it becomes imperative for businesses to build direct relationships with their customers or strategically partner with those who do. If not, your business may forever be at the whim of the ever-changing landscape and reactively trying to solve for data gaps instead of executing business strategies.
So that being said, I think it’s fair to say there are two key strategies to consider, namely increasing authentication rates and data partnerships.
A large data base of customers is a good thing but not necessarily actionable. If we’re serious about providing great experiences – regardless of channel – we need to continuously identify customers across their devices and track specific behaviours across them. To do this we need to encourage a level of authentication across all devices. Regardless of your expected volumes, here are a few tactical ideas when trying to increase authentication rates.
- Be clear on the value or service the user will get if they sign up or authenticate. Sometimes the simplest of conveniences are enough and if you’re not sure what they could be – ask your customers!
- Be clear about how data will be used, and how it will not be used. A complicated Terms & Conditions and opt-in or opt-out process may be good for numbers but not for long term trust, engagement and loyalty.
- Authentication doesn’t stop at log-ins. There are many ways to identify customers outside of them logging in, such as online forms, whether competition, support or request forms or direct marketing touch points such as push notifications or email click throughs, etc. The real question is what level of authentication is acceptable and compliant for your purposes?
- Present yourself as a product, not as an advertisement. As an example, users may subconsciously associate any uninitiated pop ups or overlays as advertising or arbitrary marketing attempts, instead of specific product invitations to sign up or authenticate. Aim to treat these as part of your digital property and engage your UX and Optimisation teams for best results.
- Do not prioritise benefits over experience. As an example, low sign ups or authentication rates may not always be down to the value of the service. Instead it could be something more fundamental such as a poor user experience while logging in. This is where Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target shine, providing insights and A/B testing to help identify and achieve up lift in authentication rates. This could save you wasting a great deal of time and money producing more offers, functions or features to incentivise, while not addressing the actual issue.
- Do not ask for an unreasonable amount of data. As an example, I have no idea why a simple count down timer app would request to access to my storage folders and contacts list but the very fact it does has resulted in loss of trust. The outcome being me deleting the app straight away, never to engage again. Similarly, an online form asking for a lot more information than necessary, much of which is irrelevant to the product or service I’m signing up for, has a higher risk of drop off – mainly due to me beginning to question why I need to supply this information… Plus a friend just pinged me, I need to call my mum back and want to watch latest episode of my favourite show, so have much more important things to do than pondering the reason for certain fields on a form.
Volume and fidelity are important factors to consider when looking at data partnerships, but as I eluded to earlier, so is the right data. If you do not know what the right data is, chances are you haven’t comprehensively outlined what use cases you’re aiming to solve or what experiences you plan to deliver to your customers. As much as we’d like to simply throw ‘big data’ at AI to gain customer insight, data scientists understand you still need the right data to train your models and produce meaningful outcomes. Security, compliance and governance is equally important and with the use of Adobe Audience Manager, customers can share data in a safe and compliant manner. But like all investments, the proof is in the pudding so for any data partnerships, ensure you have S.M.A.R.T goals with positive outcomes.
So, a lot to take in and consider. But still, I love meeting new people and as regulations, walled gardens and technology may seem to restrict the way we can engage, there will always be a majority of the population willing and happy to reach out their hand and shake ours for the chance to receive great experiences. Experiences based on trust and driven by data.