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The Race is On

Data Trust & the New Licence to Innovate


With GDPR in the rear-view mirror and the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal no longer making headlines, major organisations could be forgiven for thinking the data privacy story is over for the foreseeable future. Think again. The issue of Data Privacy compliance will not only continue to stay on the radar, but in fact, may climb up the agenda - and in some ways we might not expect.
Firstly, as other jurisdictions follow in the wake of GDPR, companies should be addressing privacy globally and not in piecemeal fashion. By adopting the requirements contained in one of the more restrictive laws as their privacy compliance foundation, companies can easily adapt as more and more companies implement data protection laws. Managing personal data differently in different jurisdictions becomes far too complex for companies and leads to inadvertent privacy violations.
Secondly, as customers now must provide their explicit and freely given consent for their data to be used, further downside risk is presented. Data scandals or anything that would contribute to a mass deterioration in trust, could trigger an exodus of customer consent, resulting in a fragmented view of the customer base. As the reliance on behavioural data to help us run our organisations increases, the loss of a social licence to use this data could be catastrophic.
Finally - the upside. Going above and beyond for data stewardship and customer privacy may serve as a key differentiator for brands wanting to acquire or deepen customer relationships. What could this involve?
Data education – illuminating customers on how their data is leveraged in the organisation and highlighting how its use translates to better customer outcomes, such as:
  • Improved customer service and care
  • Enhanced loyalty offerings
  • Better product development process (particularly for subscription-based services - where the continual evolution of product functionality and experience is essential to retention)
Data control - the corollary of better education, by building trust and enabling customers to control their data use - by deciding who, how and when their data can be processed. In essence, giving them the digital ‘keys’ to control how their data is leveraged. This may include:
  • The extent to which their data is shared with outside organisations (e.g. in cross-functional healthcare networks)
  • In what way the data is leveraged for internal processes and projects (customer sentiment, product development)
Many organisations view solid and ethical data-handling processes as a hedge against negative publicity, fines and customer fallout - but they’re missing the upside. Giving customers genuine visibility and influence over how their data is used won’t only engender more trust, it will enable brands to truly distinguish themselves from their competitors who are lagging behind.
Being a great data citizen and custodian will start serving as a competitive differentiator - particularly in highly competitive consumer markets. Going above and beyond to protect anonymity and privacy of customers, and giving them the confidence that their individual behaviours are not being captured or exploited in a way they would be uncomfortable with, should be a priority.
But how else can it create value?
Best practice in data stewardship can unlock substantial benefits for organisations and their customers alike:
Social licence to innovate - irrespective of adherence to relevant data regulation, any innovation that is deemed ‘too creepy’ by customers could trigger an exodus. Driving transparency with customers around data use can lower the risk of customers feeling exploited or shocked by analytics or AI applications - and empowering the organisation to try and test new things
New interaction ecosystems - certain groups of customers may elect to provide more data in exchange for a curated experience. For instance, in a retail setting, this could involve customer preferences being overlaid onto the in-store shopping experience. This could include special attention from floor-walking staff and on-the-spot deals - both curated to a customer’s product and shopping tastes
This is merely a starting point. Differentiated data practices will unlock value for organisations in several other ways that are, as yet, uncharted.
So what can major organisations actually do in response to all this? Engineering an organisation to lead the way as a great data steward will be a journey - but it can be underpinned by some core areas to start developing today:
  • Consolidate and harmonise data use policies across all regions: by aligning all regions with best-in-class data policies, the organisation can reduce the burden of maintaining a patchwork of compliance policies, which treat customers differently depending on where they live
  • Educate staff and customers alike: providing clarity to customers regarding how their data is used, in concert with education for staff on respecting customer rights and best practice analytics, both lowers the risk of inappropriate data use and customer backlash
  • Listen to what your customers want (and give them choice): while it’s easy to focus on the downside, many organisations may find customer subgroups are happy to provide more data in exchange for special deals or a more personalised experience. But you won’t know unless you ask.
Taking a forward thinking approach to data privacy can not only protect an organisation from downside risk, but can also build closer, more trusting relationships with customers - and a lasting licence to innovate as this data revolution accelerates.
Ben Morley-John, Managing Director at Smash Delta
Sheila Fitzpatrick, Chief Privacy Officer at Smash Delta

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