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Designing a human-first data experience

Interacting with customers—and their data—to foster trust

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?

When you download a shopping app and consent to the privacy policy, the company behind the icon on your screen can learn a lot about you. It can know where you bank, what you tend to buy online and the approximate hour you normally browse.

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 organisation. 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.

Relationships first

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:

  • Established relationships are essential. To some extent or another, we’re all being digitally monitored. But when we presented scenarios involving third-party cookies, geo-tracking, or device listening, consumers almost universally scored them lower than the scenarios that did not involve these in-depth tracking methods. Scores for these scenarios were especially low if we did not explicitly mention that the consumer had some type of relationship with the brand (for example, purchased from the brand before or provided the brand with an email address). On the other hand, 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. These relationships included some customer benefit such as a special offer or timely re-purchase reminder. The fact that these scenarios did not include in-depth tracking signals the importance of customer agency. In other words, these scenarios deploy data on the customer’s terms.

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.

  • Implementing in-depth tracking is a balancing act—even with an established relationship. While in-depth tracking scenarios with an established relationship received generally more positive responses than those without one, they are still a tier below not using in-depth tracking at all. Of our three scenarios that combined established relationships with in-depth tracking, only one—providing a digital offer to customers while they browse aisles at their favourite store (38% net helpful score)—performed similarly to the “established relationship” scenarios.

Taken together, we see that cultivating strong relationships starts with building trust and providing helpful data experiences that provide value—and agency—to consumers.

A recipe for cultivating trust: Transparency, value and security

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.

The power—and value—of intent

Recently, we studied 7,500 consumers and employees to better understand what drives trust and, as importantly, how trust predicts future behaviour. 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

Competency: Where cyber helps brands keep the promises they make

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 minimise 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 endeavour. 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.

About the research

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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Deloitte Digital

Digital technology has changed the face of business. Across the globe, Deloitte Digital helps clients see what’s possible, identify what’s valuable, and deliver on it by combining creative and digital capabilities with advertising agency prowess and the technical experience, deep business strategy and relationships of the world’s largest consultancy. Deloitte Digital empowers businesses with the insights, platforms and behaviours needed to continuously and rapidly evolve to perform beyond expectations.

Learn more

  1. Deloitte Digital, A new measure of trust for consumer industries , 2020.

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  2. Ibid.

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  3. Sourced from executive interviews conducted between May and August of 2021 as part of the 2022 Global Marketing Trends research.

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  4. Deloitte Digital, A new measure of trust for consumer industries .

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  5. Executive interviews conducted as part of the 2022 Global Marketing Trends research.

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Cover artwork by: Tank Design.

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