Contextualising with consent

How marketers can improve their customer consent strategy

Online consent can be a minefield for brands, and just doing enough to fulfil legal obligations no longer cuts it. Transparency is key, balanced with the right amount of information.  

Consent is one of the big words in the world at present, and requests for your virtual agreement are now a common part of daily online life.  

Naturally, the collection of data is crucial for brands to contextualise the online experience for an individual, particularly in an age of hyper-personalisation where relevancy is a guiding star. However, the challenge now is to do so in a way that browsers both understand and accept, and that deepens their relationship with their customers.  

So, outside of fulfilling legal obligations, how do brands address the topic of consent proactively to provide an even better online experience for their customers?  

Full disclosure  

PwC senior marketing manager, Peter Hionis, says first and foremost, brands need to make it explicitly clear what they’re collecting data for, and how they intend to use it.  

“You’ve got to tell the visitor that you are capturing that information, but also conveying that you will use that information to improve their experience and provide them with a richer, more relevant experience,” he says.    

“For brands, it’s about asking for – and collecting – data that’s genuinely going to help you deliver a more targeted and relevant experience that’s going to resonate with your visitors, not collecting information for the sake of it.”  

SAS director of global retail practice, Dan Mitchell, agrees it’s all about disclosure.  

“Try to disclose everything, and disclose what partners you might be connected with. Now, that can be very complicated for a consumer to understand for sure, but your default position now is to disclose everything.”  

Taking a purely legal approach to online consent is insufficient for marketers, Mitchell continues.  “You could just throw out one consent form, someone might read it and tick a box. At a bare minimum have you done what you need to do legally? Yes, you might have,” he says.  

“But that's not a very customer experience-focused approach to why you need that consent, and what that consent is going to provide your customers.  

“Ultimately, it’s all got to be focused on improving customer experience.”  

Clarity is needed – on both sides  

And it really is the customer experience that’s at the heart of the matter. Before asking for consent, marketers need to know why they’re asking for information, and what they are going to do with it.  

There has previously been a mentality of ‘gather every bit of data possible’. After all, who knows when it’d be useful? To be fully transparent when collecting data in that manner is near impossible. Today, you can do more with less, as Mitchell explains.  

“The companies that do it best in this space have been the ones that have adopted more real-time analytics and can make decisions more on the fly quickly,” he continues.  “The old paradigm was grab everything because overnight I need to churn and cook my models, batch process it and come up with a magic answer.  

“If you have real-time analytics, you really can just grab what you have right now around the customer's transactions to date, session information, browser information, a geolocation segment, and then try to do something.  

“You can do more with less.”  

Different demographics, different expectations  

The expectation of the level of information necessary to disclose – and the customised experience that you can subsequently deliver – however, may well differ by demographic.

Some segments may want – and expect – a fully customised experience and are happy to share more details with a brand to get that. Other segments of your audience may not want that.   

“It's important to appreciate you need to really leverage the data you have about your customers to dial in that expected level of disclosure by segment, says Mitchell.  

“Whether that's by age or income or geography, you really need to understand they have different perceptions of what online consent is, and what the expectations are.”  

Mitchell recommends when delivering the online experience, to reinforce the fact that that experience is only possible to deliver because they’ve given you consent.  

Forrester senior analyst, Xiaofeng Wang, believes this value exchange is something marketers need to get better at.  

“Unfortunately, customer value is often an afterthought. Marketers should provide a value exchange to them – when consumers provide personal information to brands, brands need to make sure they are providing more customised services in return.”  

Assume nothing  

Any ambiguity or lack of transparency when it comes to consent is incredibly dangerous territory and the potential damage catastrophic.  Wang says marketers can land themselves in trouble with their customers by not being responsible with the data they’re being trusted with.  

“Marketers should validate each data provider they use and be clear about their data sources and methodologies,” she says.  

 “Ultimately if you’re asking clearly for consent, and being explicit about why you want and need that information, visitors to websites are giving that information in good faith,” Hionis continues.  

“If you were to use that data in any other way, it could be very destructive to that brand, and it’d turn customers off because as a brand you’re sending the message that you don’t care about the customer. You're trying to capitalise on, and take advantage of, something that should be used in good faith – and as a brand that wants to have a long-term relationship with your customers, that’s not the impression you want to make.”  

On a practical level, trust and transparency have to be at the forefront when it comes to asking for, and receiving, consent. Trust that you need the information you’re asking for, and that you’re going to do what the owner of the information is likely to believe you’re going to do with it.  

Transparency need to be both in why you’re collecting data, and showing in practice how it’s used. Because if you breach either, then you’re likely to pay a very big price.  

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu

 

 

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