No doubt, you spend a lot of time thinking – and talking – about data. Over the past 5-10 years, it has become one of the key topics in business. It has been declared ‘The Lifeblood of the Digital Economy’ and ‘The New Gold of Business’. And that’s not surprising, considering the place data holds in our ambitions. We aim to create hyper-personalized customer experiences, to laser-target our marketing campaigns, and even to predict behavior. We can’t do any of that without solid data.
Our most common data strategy—i.e. how we get it and how we translate it into business value—looks something like this:
- Extract whatever type of data we need
Google knows exactly where users have been, track their every move—online and offline. Facebook can recognize their faces and access their webcam and microphone. This is not creepy stalker behavior; this is the ambition.
- Use it to exploit people’s vulnerabilities
Once people have clicked away that cookie banner, we basically have free play. Based on the detailed psychological profile we have of them, we deploy the persuasion tactic that drives them through the funnel the fastest, in the moment they are the most vulnerable to influences. And we will follow them, even after they leave our site.
- Retain that data to the maximum extent
As data is such a valuable business asset, we’ll discourage users from taking it back. Our privacy pages will describe how they can download their data, but not offer the actual tools right then and there. Yes, they can delete their account, but we won’t make it easy… they’ll have to Google how to do it.
Until recently, we could get away with this. But if you recognize your own efforts in the description above, then you’re in trouble. Double trouble, even.
A Matter of Trust
First of all: the new GDPR privacy legislation, which we all have to abide by as of today (May 25), severely limits our execution room in this strategy. We can no longer use our data for any purpose, but only for the purposes for which we get consent. We have to make clear which data we own. And we have to make it really easy for people to take their data back from us.
But that’s not all.
Because a second challenge has been brewing in the background. Slowly but surely, year after year, as we've been taking more and more liberties with people's privacy, people’s feelings, people's relationships with other people, we have also been chipping away at people’s trust.
And over the past two or three years, trust levels have plummeted around the world. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, a research study that tracks global trust levels, revealed that:
“Trust is in crisis around the world. The general population’s trust in all four key institutions — business, government, NGOs, and media — has declined broadly, a phenomenon not reported since Edelman began tracking trust among this segment in 2012.”
Strong language aside, this is a serious statement.
It’s therefore not surprising that the troublesome state of trust was one of the key subjects at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, where world leaders met to discuss globally meaningful topics.
Because when trust declines, that’s bad for business. Trust is the cornerstone of commercial success, as economists and scientists alike have pointed out:
“A customer who trusts a brand is more willing to remain loyal to it, to pay a premium price for it, to buy newly introduced products under it, and to share information about personal tastes, preferences, and behaviors.”
The rapid decline in trust is putting pressure on our success. Especially when we consider the importance of getting our customers to share those tastes, preferences and behaviors that mean the most to us. GDPR was merely a sign of a changing atmosphere.
Walking the Talk
From all this, it follows that the winning companies are those that are able to establish trusting relationships with their customers. If we really want to get the data we need, we need to engage in a data strategy that is optimized not primarily for sales, but for trust.
So, what would that look like, a data experience optimized for trust?
To answer this question, Mirabeau set up a work force that included researchers, privacy specialists, digital marketers, CX strategists, and designers. In constant dialogue with representatives from our clients, we have explored multiple scenarios, which we tested in the field with real people.
The results have come in.
Mirabeau has identified two main areas of distrust, when it comes to data: (1) people don’t understand what we might do with their data (they fear abuse), and (2) people often do not recognize where we’ve got their personal data from (they assume data exchange between parties behind their backs).
This means that whatever the new experience may look like, it has to improve the experience on these two points. We could educate people on our policies. We could give them more transparency on our processes. But talk is cheap.
Data experience optimized for trust
That is why Mirabeau believes it is essential to fundamentally change our behaviour when it comes to handling data. In the new experience, people would not feel like they’re giving us free play. Instead, it would feel like they’re keeping their data close to themselves. Where the input of data is a conscious choice, and directly linked to the activation of valuable services. Where they set the boundaries, and determine what happens.
If we do that, and data shifts from being a business asset to a customer asset, it should return not only as an increase in trust, but also in a willingness to input their data, and a stronger sense of ownership over the experience, with loyalty as a result.
Overall, Mirabeau has found that people are much more willing to share their data when the customer experience is:
- Symmetrical: People see that the experience is mutually beneficial and is based on a fair exchange of value;
- Controlled by the customer: People have complete ownership of their data, and use that data to shape their own experience;
- ‘Relationship over returns’: People sense that the company intends to make a continued positive impact in their lives, and considers them to be more than mere consumers.
Practicing the Five Principles of Privacy
In the next few weeks, we’ll show you how this alternative data strategy will translate into business practices. To guide this transformation, we have established Five Principles of Privacy, a multitude of tactics, and illustrative sketches of how they would transform your (digital) products and touchpoints.
In short, we will hand you the tools to build the trust you need to get the data you want.
Stayed tuned to this space. Because now that GDPR has taken effect, your business will depend on it.
This article is written by Maarten Kappert, Senior Creative Consultant at Mirabeau. Do you want to get in touch? Drop him a line.