You can learn two things about a company that takes the privacy of its customers seriously, and gives them the opportunity to consent to how their data is used, says Aarron Spinley, Growth and Innovation Evangelist, SAP.

“Some would say that it speaks to the company holding honorable values, and they would be 100 per cent right. But it is equally true, that it also shows that an organisation understands that this is a baseline requirement for contemporary customer engagement.”

Developing a data and privacy relationship with customers based on consent improves a brand’s ability to deliver better services to its customers and importantly, better results to the business.

“It helps to establish a deeper sense of trust between brand and customer which is already so important to revenue security, and customer retention.

Aarron Spinley, Growth and Innovation Evangelist, SAP

But, he says it also increases the share of wallet and acquisition.  “There is an irony that when you transparently regulate your harvesting and use of consumers’ personal information, they will tend to give you more! This shouldn’t really be a shock to anyone. After all, who do you give more of yourself to? Someone you don’t trust, or someone that you do? So companies that get this right, and are proven over the long term to be trustworthy, will likely be in a far stronger position to drive meaningful personalisation to their customers.”

Personalisation is key, he says. “For a company to optimise its revenue base, it is increasingly reliant on near real-time customer data. Without this, it’s unable to target how it meets its brand promises, how it provides frictionless services, and how it creates brand experiences.”

Spinley says that taking privacy and consent seriously are business issues that require organisations to be pragmatic, to take the time to understand the customer – and the societal – landscape they operate in if they want to enjoy long-term success.

“The first thing it does is signal to the market that the company understands its obligation to them. This may not excite lots of marketers as much as a sexy brand activation, but customer engagement is about a relationship, and relationships only work on a foundation of trust and respect.”

Marketing technique, or digital strategy, does not alter how human beings work, he says. “The neurology of trust is based largely on personal security, and so when brands provide that to customers, it goes a long way toward maximising lifetime customer value.”

With privacy having re-emerged as a significant and mainstream issue in recent years, consumers increasingly want to be asked whether they consent to how their data is used.

Spinley suggests two reasons why this is so.

Distrust

“The first is that many consumers continue to distrust institutions, and so the act of being able to consent to some types of engagement, but not others, and to be able to evolve that consent over time, provides that heightened sense of personal security.

The other reason, he says,  is that this reflects how humans graduate relationships in the real world. And so consumers feel that they have more of a say or more “control”, and more choice, within the relationship.”

While respect for privacy might seem like a self-evident good, with the rush to exploit the opportunity of data-driven marketing, that important lesson was lost.

“And we lost sight of those values for much the same reason that we saw values shift during the industrial revolution, and then throughout the 20th century as we advanced technologically. History shows us that when we get new capability we become infatuated with it, and tend to figure out the implications later.”

The same trend was evident in the lead up to the global financial crisis.  “We had all kinds of exotic new financial instruments but took our eyes off the risks. Our appetite far exceeded our tolerance, and then the bubble burst. It is analogous that society has now burst the bubble on companies (and their marketers) who became intoxicated by new digital tactics that rely on the unregulated use of personal data.”

Governments are introducing regulatory controls, which are always a lag indicator of societal attitudes.

“As a consequence, brands who re-discover these values are being rewarded by markets. But for those brands that aren’t, they are finding themselves in the cross-hairs of the regulator, paying increasingly large fines, and dealing with the PR implications of it all. And that’s to say nothing of the inherent risk to revenue that comes from being so out of step with customers.”

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