By Eric Tejeda, Marketing Director, PossibleNOW
Innovation in marketing and increased privacy requirements has placed customer understanding, personalization, and trust at the forefront of marketing priorities. Additionally, with a string of massive, high-profile data breaches, including companies such as eBay, Yahoo, Apple, and Facebook, consumer anxiety over the safety of their personal data is increasing. Seventy-five percent of online adults currently use at least one “privacy-preserving” tool like an ad or cookie blocker, according to Forrester Research. Entering 2022, trust between a business and its customers is quite fragile. As a result, many companies have established initiatives to collect zero–party data directly from their customers which is data that a customer intentionally shares with a brand such as their preferences, insights, profile data, and consent.
While AI and other automation technologies have provided convenience when engaging with consumers, companies need to realize that building relationships with new and existing customers is all about building trust. A vital element of building trust is by giving them control over their data and being transparent about how you will use their data to give them value in return.
When businesses give consumers the power to share their own preferences, insights, profile, and consent data with a specific brand, they are taking an important step in forming and maintaining relationships with customers based on trust. Not only with the individual directly, but also across the entire target market to entice more consumers to shop at that specific brand, rather than competitors.
By collecting zero-party data from their own prospects and customers, marketers can use that data to provide unique offers and experiences. This data is unique to that specific brand, therefore competitors and other third-party businesses cannot gain access to it. Further, because of past dissatisfaction with questionable data collection practices that offered little to no value for the customer in return, companies must now rely on the trust of the consumer to share personal data, and this offers a sustainable, strategic advantage for the company in their given industry.
By providing more personalized experiences, the value of trust between the customer and brand will skyrocket, which is important as external data collection sources disappear.
Companies must also be transparent about how this data will be used to provide customers value in return for sharing their data. Focusing more on relationships with customers and how their personal insights will impact a two-way relationship leads to the willingness to share more data. When customers provide insightful information about themselves, companies are then positioned to provide incentives, strengthening the customer-brand relationship.
Nike’s Direct-to-Customer strategy is an example of leveraging zero-party data to provide value to customers. Nike executed a strategy to ask consumers to share what drove their interests in Nike products. For example, are they performance athletes or interested in the athleisure fashion. By identifying which customers are performance athletes, Nike was able to offer online resources for planning and tracking workouts and send updates on performance-enhancing product improvements, while the fashion-forward crowd received news on the release of the latest and limited-edition styles.
Numerous studies have found that companies who explain why they are seeking specific personal information will reinforce trust in the customer’s mind and help them understand the role this information plays in the brand relationship. Some strategies for transparency include: asking for information within the proper context of collecting the data; providing easy access to their data so that they can update it as desired; explaining when, how, and why it will be used, as well as assuring the customer their data will be kept safe and only used to create value.
When customers provide their personal data (e.g. preferences, insights, profile, and consent), it’s vital to give them easy access to update it as desired. By implementing “trust centers” or “preference centers”, customers are provided easy access to engage with the brand. Trust centers can be accessed through company websites, email, POS devices, call centers and more, and enable customers to connect with the brand at any time; to view, add, update, or delete their preferences, insight, profile, and consent data. This puts customers in the driver’s seat and provides up-to-date information to the brand.
That said, giving customers control over their personal information will ensure strong relationships with the company and could lead to a lifetime of ROI increases. These new imperatives for businesses to follow are key to success in the competitive environment and provide a clear picture of consumer expectations while respecting their privacy.