Ask Netflix to search for your favourite movie and it will take a split second to find it. Ask an avid film fan to find it in their collection and they may retrieve it almost as quickly. But ask a hoarder who has collected every VHS and DVD they could get their hands on for decades, storing them on shelves, in boxes in the attic, in the garage and under the bed and they probably won’t know where to start.
Because it is one thing to collect information with an ordered focus, it is quite another to hoard without a plan.
This is what too many companies have been doing with customer data, scrambling to collect as much as possible with a vague intention of getting to know their customers better, but without the systems and processes needed to actually do so.
The penny dropped for some earlier this year when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect. Companies were forced to get to grips with the amount of customer data they held and many realised in the process how ineffectively they had been managing it.
Adobe research reveals that 60% of businesses feel they have been collecting too much data, from too many sources, while 56% admit they can’t process that data quickly enough and 51% say they can’t collate, structure, and integrate it in a meaningful way. That is bad news for trying to get to know your customers better, but also it is not a great starting point for GDPR compliance and the two related issues have seen a knock-on effect from one to the other.
According to our research, nearly half (49%) of brands admit GDPR has held them back in terms of delivering personalised experiences to their customers. Getting on top of customer data must clearly be a priority for businesses and there are encouraging signs of progress across Europe. We are seeing increased investment in new technologies as brands look to get on top of their data management, for the purposes of compliance but also creating improved customer experiences.
Personalisation and compliance are inextricably linked. And so they should be. Both rely on brands having full control over their data and being able to make sense of that data quickly, be it to deliver more personalised customer experiences or to stay on top of regulation.
The investment we are seeing in AI in particular, reveals companies are feeling a sense of urgency to improve their data management, while also acknowledging the scale of a task which cannot be managed through manual process alone.
But while technology is important, it is only part of the solution. Our research shows companies are investing in their people too. Nearly 70% of companies are hiring or training their staff to ensure they can use data to its full potential and understand the implications of their actions on privacy, compliance and customer experience. More specifically, they are building skills around data science, analytics, change management and ethics.
So we are moving towards a future where customer experiences and privacy go hand in hand and create what we like to call ‘experiential privacy’. Companies are beginning to view data privacy as a positive differentiator rather than just a compliance obligation and will increasingly build it directly into their digital offering. After all, a great customer experience relies upon the customer appreciating the experience they receive, and in these days of heightened sensitivity about our personal data, also being aware and at ease with what data is being used, how and by who, to create that experience.
In this way, regulation such as GDPR may mark not only an important milestone in consumer data privacy but it’s also a turning point for brands shaking off old habits of data hoarding and ineffective personalisation.
With GDPR, the EU recognised that people accept a certain level of data collection when they interact with brands, as long as they are aware and feel in control of how that data is used. For their part, companies have a legitimate interest in using that data to make sure their products, services and experiences are relevant. Customer consent is the key to bridging this gap, and experiential privacy is the key to earning that consent while keeping your audience engaged.
The companies that will stand out in the coming years will be those that can deliver privacy by design, which is why they are racing to get a better handle on their data today. Now is the time to tear down the data silos in their business, explore how technologies such as AI can help them manage more data on a larger scale, and develop a strategy that puts customers first without compromising on their privacy or the quality of experience they receive.
Read the Adobe Context is Everything report to see which countries are investing in data management systems and AI to gain control over their data and improve their digital customer experience.