Creating win-win experiences in a two-sided exchange has become a key part of customer experience design in the digital age. Relying on granular analytics alone will not be sufficient — it needs to be balanced with a focus on human empathy.

This is an important point that marketers and the technologists supporting them need to remember: human behaviour will remain as important as data in the digital economy.

The future of customer experience will be driven by these collaborative exchanges. Firms that do not grasp this evolution will be left behind.

The survey data in today’s Which-50 cover story clearly shows the current disconnect between consumers and brands when it comes to the use of personal and behavioural data. This is not surprising to me.

The Cambridge Analytica episode and the recent personal data regulation introduced in Europe, for example, have increased the awareness of consumers that firms are doing things in the background with their personal data.

Martech analytics technologies are today very sophisticated and, to some extent, ahead of the ability of most consumers to grasp the way their data is used and manipulated. This creates dissonance, and this dissonance increases when data is indirectly collected by brands and martech firms.

For instance, a consumer may not want to provide a brand with their age, but that data can be scraped from another online profile without the consumer’s consent.

These concerns are clear in the data Which-50 has published in its cover story this week.

52.1 per cent of consumers feel uncomfortable with firms serving tailored ads when they visit their web site, but that number goes up to 70.4 per cent when targeted ads are based on activity on other web sites and to 73 per cent when firms monitor offline consumer activities.

 This all about lack of trust, transparency and control.

Heads, but also tails

So does that mean it’s all doomed and we have to completely revisit the basic principle of digital advertising online?

Yes and no.

No, because, when done properly, there is a valued consumer benefit in personalisation. Netflix recommendations are a good example of that value.

Yes, because brands and martech companies are not all born equal.

Some care about quality customer experience and have understood what we have coined with the MIT the “Collaborative Customer Experience” — the ability to find an equilibrium between the data that is collected and used and the utility that is created for consumers.

We explored this issue in a Capgemini and the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, called “From UX to CX: Rethinking the Digital User Experience as a Collaborative Exchange”.

The key question to ask is “what does the consumer get in return?” Conversely, too many brands and martech firms are still in a sales bombardment mode! This “spray and pray” model is not only an irritant for consumers, but it also doesn’t make much business sense and can damage brand equity.

So what’s the answer? Firms and their martech partners need to pay more attention to quality experiences and deep understanding of consumer utility — what we call consumer capital. This capital can be economic (eg incentives), cultural (eg self-expression), social (eg networking) or information-based (eg enabling better decisions).

The survey data in the Which-50 article reinforces this notion. For instance, when 70.5 per cent of respondents say they are OK being served discount ads, it’s because they see economic capital in what you are doing. When 78.1 per cent of respondents say they do not want political ads it’s most likely because it’s something very personal that breaks their cultural capital. This is very much in line with our research with MIT.

Brands and their martech partners need to pay serious attention to this new collaborative information exchange that the digital world has brought on us.

Regulations and codes of conduct might help to increase transparency, but the real answer is to focus on creating true consumer capital and quality experiences. Firms that don’t will not only get few business benefits, but may even damage their brand in the process.

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