When consumer data is in the news, it’s usually because of a security breach, fraudulent activity, or a privacy violation. These things occur often enough that they can skew people’s perceptions to the point where they only view consumer data collection negatively—and that puts us digital marketers in a precarious position. After all, digital marketing is built on data; and the ethical, safe, and authorized collection of it.
So, how do we convince our friends, family members, and peers that data collection isn’t always the conniving villain lurking in the shadows and that there’s more to it than the negative headlines we see every other day? We can start by reminding ourselves of all the benefits that come into play when data gets into the hands of creative marketers.
Data collection happens everywhere―in marketing, advertising, and consumer goods and services, as well as in broader areas such as public safety, healthcare, and energy conservation. It’s the reality of the digital-first, connected world we live in.
Maybe you’re looking for a better response when someone questions the efficacy of your work, or you need a reminder of why you got into this industry in the first place. Whatever your reasons for reading this article, let’s explore the positive side of an often polarizing issue.
The core promise of data collection is to improve the experience of dealing with businesses—whether through the advertising that consumers are served or the products and services they buy.
Here are five unique and forgotten ways in which data collection improves the customer experience and drives better outcomes for everyone.
The advertising industry has collectively been talking about the notion of relevance and personalization for decades, and that’s because its importance can’t be discounted.
There’s an inherent need to create experiences that consumers find engaging and relevant—without it, there’s no point to advertising. If there’s no chance that people will buy, interact, or raise their hands in any way, what’s the point of advertising to them? Thanks to data, marketers now have access to more information than ever before; and they can use that to ensure they’re only reaching those who are fit for their brand, product, or service.
Personalization serves two purposes here.
First, it helps businesses reduce waste by ensuring they’re only investing in channels and ads that their audiences respond to, driving efficiency.
Second, it improves the experience for consumers by removing irrelevant ads from their online experience. With ad blocking more popular than ever before, and a broader societal revolt against advertising, marketers needn’t make matters worse by serving ads that offer no value to consumers. Even the most hard-nosed, anti-advertising consumers can appreciate when advertisements for relevant products appear at the right time, in the right place.
UK Internet users attitude towards seeing digital ads reveals relevance and personalization does impact whether they like seeing ads or not. Source: eMarketer.
Consumer data fuels insights that enable personalization on the level that we’re seeing today. While there’s still work to do (hey, nothing is perfect), without the same access to data, marketers would be left with a one-size-fits-all, mass marketing approach. And consumers, already tired of advertising, would be forced to endure ads that have no meaning to them—a surefire way to add fuel to the fire.
Personalization through consumer data also informs new product and solution development.
Today’s advanced technology and vast media networks make it viable for businesses to assess and anticipate market needs for new products, line extensions, and service improvements so they can better meet consumers’ wants and needs, at both the individual and the aggregate level.
For businesses, not only does this approach improve the chance of a sale, but it also reduces the waste of creating products with no market demand.
For consumers, the benefits are obvious. If business leaders and product strategists couldn’t accurately assess their markets and how their products and services are being used, how could they improve and deliver on consumer expectations?
Data collection allows businesses to deeply understand the market so they can serve consumers in more innovative, intuitive, and creative ways—resulting in consumers whose needs, wants, and desires are met. Problem solved.
Couponing and special offers are some of the oldest tricks in the marketing playbook, but data-driven, targeted advertising allows businesses to offer customers these savings when they need them most―while they’re actually shopping. And this isn’t confined to the retail and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industries.
Within the insurance industry, for example, consumer data allows carriers to more accurately price premiums and offer products and services timed to align with customers’ changing circumstances, such as retirement or purchasing a new home.
Customer-pleasing features such as one-click ordering and automatic payment processing are made possible through the marrying of data and technology, and they make business transactions much more efficient and convenient.
Automated prescription refills, upcoming service reminders, and product recommendations based on past purchases are other examples of how businesses are using what they know about their customers to make the path to purchase streamlined and more efficient.
Data and technology together can even play the role of the hero in discovering “bad actors.”
The internet has opened the door to invalid traffic (IVT)—misleading clicks and other activity that artificially inflate a website’s or ad publisher’s traffic counts.
This can be accidental, such as clicks from legitimate bots and crawlers, but it can also be used by malicious users to generate a count that deliberately misrepresents actual customer interactions. IVT can inflate an advertiser’s budget and negatively affect the company’s advertising expenditure, derailing ad campaigns that target legitimate customers.
The right data filtration and analytics tools can help advertisers detect and block this type of fraudulent activity so that the right ads go to real people.
DrainerBot - discovered by Oracle - is an example of when data helps consumers. Source: AdWeek.
In fact, consumer data analytics is used to prevent fraud in a number of industries, including insurance, financial services, and telecommunications. Consumers who are worried about their vulnerability to identity theft through data sharing are often unaware that their data is also a component in the fraud detection and prevention measures that the companies they do business with are undertaking on their behalf.
Anyone who has received a notification from their credit card company about a suspicious transaction is in effect being protected by the same data used to receive a discount on purchases. But that’s not the only way data and technology combine to turn a potentially bad situation into a positive outcome.
Medical data analysis can literally save lives. As data collection and analytics increase in sophistication (think biometrics, sensors, and real-time alerts), healthcare professionals are able to intervene to avert numerous potential catastrophes―from making dosage adjustments in life-saving medications to preventing heart attacks and strokes, to recognizing and blocking a developing pandemic.
There’s no getting around the fact that we live in a data-driven world, and that’s not going to change―nor should it. Gathering and analyzing consumer data has numerous benefits for individuals and businesses that collect information about them. Companies have a big stake in making sure that consumers view data collection and its use as a value-add and not as an intrusion or threat.
As marketers and business leaders, we all have a role to play in shifting consumer perceptions in a positive direction by providing clear and easily accessible policy statements that include comprehensive explanations about how consumer data is being used and protected.
We can also help change minds through public relations efforts that drive awareness about all the positive actions that are enabled through consumer data analytics. On a micro level, we can share the above-mentioned benefits of data collection with our peers the next time the discussion arises.
The more that people realize how a connected society makes everyday activities more fluid, open, and accessible, the greater the chance that we can change the narrative.
There will always be bad actors who taint the practice of data collection and, in doing so, bring down the wider industry. But as long as companies and marketers protect and secure their consumer data, use it for legitimate purposes, and are transparent with consumers about how they’re accomplishing these objectives, data will earn the good reputation it deserves.
About Allan Stormon
Allan is the Content Marketing Manager at Oracle Data Cloud. He leads the content strategy and global content marketing program, producing content that helps marketers create and launch more effective campaigns with data.