Consumer sentiment is increasingly hostile to the concept of businesses harvesting their personal data for commercial reasons. Yet the same time, more consumers than ever before expect a personalised experience and are increasingly loyal to the brands that understand them.

It is this seemingly paradoxical contrast between consumer sentiment and expectation that has led to the role of “declared data” – which see’s a customer actively trust a company with their information, in an informed and consenting way.

In today’s age of instant feedback, consumers expect to be asked what they think. They’re willing to answer if they believe that doing so will have a benefit for them. Research shows that a majority (75 per cent) of social media users are comfortable sharing data with a brand if it can make relevant recommendations to them about events. But only 37 per cent of respondents would be comfortable if that same data was used to deliver third party information, such as political campaign messages.

As we experience a rising worldwide narrative of fake news, online scams, and metadata-based targeting, it is our role as business leaders to take great care not to misuse the data entrusted to us by customers, and to be more transparent about how it’s used and protected.

The implications of evolving privacy legislation

Data privacy and security compliance is high on the boardroom agenda at organisations across the world. The issue is not merely how companies can keep up with evolving legislation – it is on how they must proactively work from a set of ethics that are already in alignment with any legislation passed.

Consumers are already much more concerned about how their data is used, and want transparency, particularly with the advent of AI and emerging technologies.

We know from our own experience that many consumers fail to update privacy settings. And surveys reveal that, already, almost 16 per cent have stopped doing business with an organisation due to data misuse. This is still an appreciable portion of the market, and it’s a figure that will only grow as awareness continues to grow.

The data needed to build trust

Consumers are getting smarter and more aware of what they want and what questions they need to ask. Businesses must be a step ahead of this and anticipate consumer needs and queries; and travel the customer journey with them. This will enable them to successfully interact with customers and build (or rebuild) trust.

This means having simple, transparent and informative policies around data sharing. Data should be captured along the customer journey, to detect stress points, to measure outcomes, and to create a more personalised and rich experience. There are an increasing number of technologies, platforms and services – from panel research to customer engagement tools – that are reshaping the landscape of data collection and analysis.

Businesses that deploy these technologies to capture the Voice of the Customer, and put that voice at the centre of everything they do, will achieve greater customer lifetime value and business results over time.

Consent is critical when capturing customer data – ethically, legally, and in terms of building trust with consumers. Taking an ethical and proactive approach to data will not only save problems in the long run, but also make businesses more competitive.

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