Marketing has traditionally used detailed customer data to improve the customer experience. But with pushback on data tracking, can the security function work with marketing to deepen customer trust?
Marketers devour these morsels of information. But there’s a delicate balance between helpfulness and overuse when it comes to consumer data. Geo-tracking, device listening, and third-party cookie-based recommendations can create an unsettling feeling that smart technology is not just inquisitive—it’s intrusive (see our trend “Meeting customers in a cookieless world” to learn more). As a result, people are increasingly rebelling against the idea of brands following their every move.
At the same time, this abundance of customer data can create a paradox within the organization. Cyber teams led by the chief information security officer (CISO) work to protect personal data and adhere to privacy regulations. Meanwhile, their marketing peers seek this same information in the hopes of creating better customer experiences.
So, how can the chief marketing officer (CMO) and the CISO work together to use this data appropriately and build consumer trust?
To learn more, we polled 11,500 global consumers from 19 countries. The responses help us better understand the balance between people finding the use of their data helpful and, well, creepy.
To explore how the use of personal information can build or erode trust, we examined how consumers perceive specific data interactions, while taking into account the consumer’s relationship with the brand.
In our survey, we presented 10 brand interactions that use customer data and asked respondents to rate the interaction on a scale of creepy to helpful. These ratings were then used to create a “net helpful score”—by taking the difference between those who agreed the interaction would be helpful, and those who indicated it would be creepy (we did not include the neutral responses; see figure 1).
For instance, 68% of respondents said they found it helpful when a brand they regularly shopped with provided them alerts when items go on sale. In comparison, 11% found these alerts creepy, garnering a net helpful score of 57% (the highest score). At the other end of the spectrum, people reacted negatively when it appeared their device was listening to them—for example, you’re chatting with a friend about your caffeine craving, and a coffee ad shows up in your social media feed. In this case, 26% suggested this interaction was helpful, while 53% indicated the interaction was creepy (for our lowest net helpful score of -27%).
Across all scenarios, we noted some patterns:
Almost every one of our scenarios that were grounded in brand relationships—and shied away from in-depth tracking—were ranked by customers as the most helpful interactions.
Taken together, we see that cultivating strong relationships starts with building trust and providing helpful data experiences that provide value—and agency—to consumers.
Since trust is so important to building strong customer relationships, how can brands do this well? One way is by breaking trust into actionable components.
Recently, we studied 7,500 consumers and employees to better understand what drives trust and, as importantly, how trust predicts future behavior. This analysis indicated that four signals formed the basis of trust: humanity, transparency, reliability, and capability (see our article on trust in the consumer industry to learn more).1
When it comes to trusted data experiences, transparency and humanity are the most important. In fact, when brands demonstrate transparency and humanity, customers are 2.5 times more likely to provide personal information that helps improve the product, and 1.7 times more likely to feel they have received more value than expected.2
Chris Stamper, president of Sixteen Mile Strategy Group and former CMO of a top North American bank, sees similar themes coming to market: “Transparency and engagement with the customer on how you plan to use the data is critical … The second lens is value demonstration, which is how you help inform the customer of value creation and let the customer opt in and opt out of the things you’re delivering.”3
Trust will erode if even the most transparent messages (with the best intentions) fall short of the promises brands make with their customers. In fact, customers who perceive brands as reliable and competent are 1.6 times more likely to provide the brand with their digital information.4 Thus, another key enabler of trust involves brands demonstrating their competency in keeping customer data secure.
Brands also need to build trust across their own ranks—especially when C-suite leaders aren’t used to working closely together toward that goal. This means not being territorial and saying that customer data security is another team’s responsibility. As stewards of brand reputation, marketers can work closely with their cybersecurity leaders from the outset of the engagement.
Marissa Solis, senior vice president of portfolio marketing, partnerships, and media at Frito Lay, notes the shift taking place. While Solis acknowledges that a few years ago, cyber would not be top of mind when thinking about engagement strategies, much has changed, as “security is one of the table stakes to building consumer trust … The security piece, the information systems piece, or the technology piece is critical because they’re setting the foundation of that infrastructure, so they work together with us as we’re trying to paint the picture and the vision for that [consumer] engagement.”5
Together, a CMO and a CISO can understand the implications of data collection choices and work to minimize risks to the customer. For instance, if a shopping app is being developed by a third-party vendor, the CMO and CISO can work together to ensure that the app development includes comprehensive security assessments and testing so that the customer data remains protected.
Navigating the consumer privacy landscape is an increasingly difficult endeavor. Yet, we also know that using consumer data transparently and always with their needs in mind can lead to better decisions and more helpful brand relationships overall—absent the creepy factor. Building trust is hard. See figure 2 for tips on how to get started designing a human-first data experience.
The Global Marketing Trends Executive Survey polled 1,099 C-suite executives from global companies located in the United States, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands in April 2021. This survey asked chief executive, marketing, information, finance, operating, legal, and human resource officers their thoughts on a variety of topics driving the evolution of the marketing function.
The Global Marketing Trends Consumer Survey polled 11,500 global consumers, ages 18 and above, in May 2021 across 19 countries.
See the introduction to learn more about both studies.
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