ARTICLE: Why data is the next frontier of customer trust

We have entered into a crucial moment in time where every brand is facing the challenge of refreshing their customer understanding. Every person will emerge from this current crisis with new attitudes and spending priorities. Brands therefore need to tune into this new customer sentiment and respect this changed reality.

At the same time, each industry is being transformed by the power of data, and the evidence-led approach it can support. Businesses of all sizes are racing to become more cloud- and data-driven, attracted by the agility and flexibility that becoming more digitally transformed provides. Those who unite the two worlds, to use data to serve the customer, will find it easier to move into this new era of customer trust.

Informed decision-making

While we gradually   return to a ‘new normal’ and restart the economy, businesses are cautiously deciding what their next moves should be. They will need to make sure that any communication with customers is carried out in a sensitive and understanding way, taking into account the particular needs and concerns that customers are facing.

This is where the power of data comes in. Thanks to the wealth of detail on preferences, attitudes and concerns provided by comprehensive datasets, businesses are able to act in a far more informed way. Through exceptional data-driven marketing, customers not only receive communications that are relevant to them, but the products and services they really want and the experiences that they deserve.

Investing in the customer is so important because a brand with established loyalty and trust can be highly lucrative. Brands across various industries spend millions carefully building and defending their brands, because the best brands carry a very clear signal of trustworthiness. Trust takes incredible effort to build, and as difficult as it can be to build it, it can be easily lost. Even the biggest and most well-known, global, brands are dealing with a new type of trust in their customer relationships – data trust.

Consumer concerns

Customers are increasingly aware of how their digital lives are being monetised and the ways in which their data is being captured. Many of them are highly sensitive to the ways that brands collect and manage their personal data. According to global research Acxiom conducted last year, 83% of customers want a clear link between the data that they share and the benefit that they receive. When a brand has data trust with its customers, it means that both existing and potential customers not only accept that brands are collecting data about them, but they in fact explicitly want their data to be collected.

This trust cannot be assumed or claimed – it requires brands to proactively involve their customers in a discussion about what they are doing with their data and why. Businesses also need to integrate the various technologies that they are using to capture and manage customer data. They might be using several different platforms and tools, which all create individual siloes of data. By consolidating and combining these platforms and tools, common obscurity and fragmentation issues can be reduced and. version control and updates, for example, can become much more consistent.

When it comes to customer concerns, brands walk a careful line when using their personal data. Not only must data use be transparent, but it  must improve the products, services and experiences of the customer.

A strategic asset

A well-established level of data trust with customers becomes a strategic asset for businesses. It is an invaluable tool to enable all activity and decisions to become even more customer-centric. Brands are able to make the shift from simply carrying out actions with no real focus, to doing things for and with customers. Interactions can become much more collaborative and personalised.

Getting closer to customers starts by understanding them better, and when there is data trust,  customer relationships can be extended and deepened. Related products and services can be recommended when they feel appropriate to do so, which in turn builds loyalty and creates lifetime value.

However, customer trust is a fickle thing. Brands are under immense pressure to act ethically, and a new dynamic is in play. If customers are not happy, they will speak up. By proactively demonstrating how data drives value, and governing the use of customer data responsibly, brands can create not only value for themselves but also for their customers.

Author: Nikul Amin, Director of Consulting and Analytics at Acxiom