Trust is now the new business currency

There’s no question that our data now holds tremendous value and the key to our success as Marketers in the future. It helps us understand our customers and design relevant, engaging experiences that show them we know them and also truly value their business.

As customers ourselves, we have also knowingly (or unknowingly) provided businesses with personal and behavioural data at some stage and are also all putting our trust in those businesses to do the right thing with it and by us.

As a result, trust has now become the new business currency in the ‘Age of the Customer’.

And while data can provide incredible insights that, only a few years ago Marketers could only dream of, I regularly use the phrase ‘Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should’ because we still have to think with a conscience whenever we use data for business benefit.

As we move forward to an ever-increasing social data sharing environment, more onus will continue to be on businesses to do the right thing and to self-regulate. It’s all about responsibility in terms of information, transparency and authenticity. From a customer’s point of view, I am OK that you use my data as long as it is a fair value exchange and you deliver me a relevant, personalised experience.

There’s already a number of brands that do this very well. I love that Spotify takes note of what I listen to and regularly delivers me a personalised discovery playlist that contains similar genres and new artists that I wouldn’t normally choose myself. Amazon and Kindle provide me with suggested new titles based on my preferences, previous choices and what other similar people are reading, which is a massive value-add. Compare this to some of the daily deal sites that just promote a range of blanket experiences that aren’t necessarily tailored to what I am interested in or who I am, and they are miles apart, as is my engagement as a customer and perception of their value.

People are also becoming more aware that their personal data is valuable and important. And the excess of marketing messaging, particularly online where it’s cheap to do a lot, also means they are aware that if they are giving their details in exchange for something for free, then they are the ‘product’.

There’s no doubt that customers are increasingly going to demand transparency so that there are no surprises and it’s going to be more important than ever to disclose data capture. Globally, the law is catching up with this recommended best practice. With new tools and technology making it easier to track and capture data, and then store it cheaply in the Cloud, the need for best practice and the role of a “data custodian” that is trusted and authentic becomes even more important.

As marketers, we, therefore, need to ensure there is a balance between ‘creepy’ versus ‘clever’. There are many examples of companies getting this wrong – such as when the renowned one where Target identified from their data that a teenage customer was pregnant even prior to her father being aware. This is a huge reminder that ‘just because you could, doesn’t mean you should’. This new age of information needs balance and a constant conversation within companies around the fact that, even if you know something about a customer, should you still use it for relevant targeting and marketing to protect your brand?

In this day and age, customers are happy to provide their details if it’s a fair value exchange. But, if you’re using their data and not actually adding value to them, then they will quickly disengage. It’s become easier and easier to change or unsubscribe. Priority needs to now be given to not only the insights your data can provide but in also designing a data strategy around what data and why – which is fundamental to everything you do. Unfortunately, we see in a lot of these cases where data is still trapped in silos and there is an inability or unwillingness to coordinate the insights, which will cost business going forward if they don’t embrace change.

To win in the ‘Age of the Customer’ it really comes down to thinking about how you deliver shared value exchange to your customer. What data do you want to know about them, how do you incentivise them to share this information with you, and what level of shared value return and transparency will you provide back to make it worth their while.

This article first appeared on the Marketing Association website – www.marketing.org.nz.