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Ethical Customer Recognition: Marketing’s Top Concerns On Responsible Customer Connections

Jed MoleJuly 02, 2015

The Ethics of Customer Recognition: why responsible data use is key to customer relationships

The new, digital world is a fertile feeding ground for companies eager to capitalise on vast quantities of data about current and prospective customers. And almost every day a new piece of tech emerges which enables marketers to gather and action more and more data.

But this sudden boom brings with it the rather thorny issue of ethics. Some companies are entirely up front about their data collection practices. However, others appear to choose to keep quiet about how they go about it and, crucially, for what purpose they’re collecting the data.

It’s more important than ever that brands treat customer data with respect and diligence. Mainly, this is because it’s the right thing to do, but additionally because consumers are becoming more savvy about both the value of their data and the potential dangers of its misuse by bad actors.

Though there are clear data protection guidelines in most countries, the consumers themselves and the marketing world move faster than the data protection world and just because you CAN use someone’s data, doesn’t mean you should. Whether you sell beans or financial services, individual consumers want to be treated like individuals and it’s down to the brand to recognise this, in light of the kind of journey the consumer wants to have coupled with the type of person that individual is.

The option to opt out: Considering customer recognition ethics across touchpoints

Knowledge is power. Simply, if a consumer is presenting across more touchpoints than ever before, the ethical challenge becomes not just about recognising customers across these touchpoints but about using this recognition responsibly.

The modern customer might receive an email on their smartphone while out shopping in John Lewis, spy an ad for something on Facebook and immediately search that product on the Argos website. The brands offering the most relevant and consistent data across this journey will be the ones in with a chance of deriving the most beneficial insights.

Customer experience consistently ranks as the number one priority for CMOs but it starts at customer recognition and relies heavily on turning that data into actionable insight, supported by effective ongoing measurement. The CMO has to be sure the message and offer is relevant and that the data is being used for the purposes it’s gathered for.

While there is growing consumer awareness that data is being collected and used, understanding isn’t growing at quite the same pace. Some people ‘don’t give a monkey’s’ about what’s happening with their data and are entirely open, others more pragmatically recognise the two-way nature of the agreement and will share data when and where it makes sense. Some people say they hate data but go on Facebook to complain about it, thereby providing even more data about themselves and others live in a virtual cave and manage to generate no data at all. The point is, we’re not all the same.

Keeping your customer recognition transparent, and within regulation

There are solutions to ensure that data is protected. Acxiom’s patented identity resolution technology, AbiliTec® is used to resolve variations of customer identity over time and across multiple media channels. The technology has helped manage an unimaginable amount of data safely and securely via a connectivity proposition, which allows data to flow from various touchpoints and back again. Additionally, Acxiom’s Safe Haven™ removes personally identifiable information (PII) and replaces it uses hashed or anonymised data to securely match data belonging to brands and publishers, for example. .

The fact is that now consumers realise what their data is worth, customer confidence is becoming increasingly important. Companies that offer transparency about the data they gather and offer their customers control over it, will enjoy increased trust and, therefore, increased access to more of it. Those who employ unethical practices will lose both the customers’ trust and their valuable dollar.