High-performing businesses are seven times more likely than industry laggards to feel they have control over the balance between personalisation and privacy.

The figures are contained in the latest Salesforce State of Marketing report, released in late 2018.

It’s little wonder data, personalisation, privacy and ethics featured so prominently in a joint Salesforce and Which-50 senior executive briefing in Melbourne recently.

Attendees at the event heard from both marketing and technology professionals how personalisation is now a consumer expectation. In fact, the Salesforce study revealed that 84 per cent of consumers say that being treated like a person, not a number, is required to win their business.

These days marketers have access to ever more sophisticated technology options that allow them to customise messaging and approach. But that also potentially creates new headaches for them.

Why? Privacy.

Data privacy has been a hot topic for a number of years. Scandals such as Cambridge Analytica have raised consumer consciousness about the consequences of the level of that data collection by companies, while regulatory changes like GDPR see those concerns reflected in law.

As data becomes more central to the way companies operate, expect a renewed focus on the potential consequences of data collection. For instance, in February Which-50 revealed how Macquarie Uni researchers demonstrated how it would be possible to identify individual census responses by removing the shield of obfuscation the ABS threw around the data.

Further reading:

Public perception

Marketing leaders understand what is at stake, but also the opportunity for brands that master the balance between privacy and personalisation.

Caroline Ruddick, General Manager of Marketing at Latitude Financial, said “I think most people are unsure of exactly how much (of their data) is being used, and the ways in which it’s being used”. Ruddick explained how, in discussions amongst her peers, she has found a clear divide: those who embrace the use of their data and understand that it gives them a better experience versus those that see the use of their data as a violation and don’t understand the capacity in which it is being used.

“Consumers have been woken up,” explained Head of Consumer Marketing for Mercer, Nidia Stoik. “But I think they’ve still got a long way to go before they truly understand what marketers are capable of when it comes to the use of data.”

Ruddick, meanwhile,  explained that the customer is at the heart of every data decision made. “Essentially, our point of view is we make sure that we comply with all the regulations, and we always, no matter what we do, but with data in particular, do the right thing by the customer.”

Building customer trust

Showing consumers that their data is being used for the right reasons — and marketers having enough of a voice within their business to say what are the right reasons — was another hot topic of discussion.

Internal pressures from the C-suite were brought up by Grant Pattison, the former Director of Operations in Technology at Deloitte. “Pressure to innovate and to do things differently, or to use your data to the best of your ability, are coming from the top down. And I think that’s forcing some interesting behaviours.”

David Goodes, Manager of Marketing Automation and Data at Suncorp, believes that marketers need to look at treating customer data as a privilege. Nidia agreed, stating “I think there is an obligation that sits with us in business, to start to think a little bit differently about the role that we play in driving some of that ethical conversation”.

What’s next?

With the implementation of the GDPR in the EU being seen as the ‘gold standard’ of data privacy management, Pattison predicts that “it’s inevitable that in Australia we’re going to get our own regulator version of the GDPR sooner rather than later. Consumers have a legal right to privacy, and they have the right to ask to be removed from your databases.”

Mercer have subscribed to GDPR, explained Nidia. “We consider that as a gold standard, as a minimum. We’re about to roll out a training program, but that can help to embed that way of thinking within the marketing organisation.”

The average person now understands that in order to have access to the infinite knowledge of the internet, they will be exposed to advertising. Soon there will be a wider understanding that personal data is the currency they can choose to trade to receive personalised and relevant offerings and content from brands.

And on the flip side, what will it take for business to understand that clear, ethical standards and rules will earn the trust of consumers?

The Which-50 Personalisation in the Age of Privacy panel discussions were sponsored by Salesforce, a Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit member. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of our readers. Membership fees apply. 

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