With only months remaining before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect, it is dominating the news agenda and is a top priority for businesses. From retailers to charities and the manufacturing industry to financial services, the impact of GDPR will affect every organisation that handles customer data and will be far reaching. Indeed, it has the scope to change the face of marketing completely.
Much of the focus so far has been on businesses preparing for GDPR, but the new regulation is also set to have a big impact on consumers, especially in terms of improving the customer journey.
In fact, switched on organisations are those that are embracing it as an opportunity to lead the way and demonstrate a new level of transparency and trust. Although it is undoubtedly a complex task, GDPR offers many opportunities to both businesses and consumers – if customer experience is the battleground of the future, then data is key to winning the war and GDPR is the perfect opportunity for businesses to rethink their approach to data and the enhanced customer relationships and experiences it allows.
>See also: The hidden opportunities in GDPR
To put it in very simplified terms, what GDPR compliance essentially boils down to is that organisations need to better understand what data they hold, why they hold it, how they have gained permission to hold it and whom they are sharing the information with.
They then need to ensure they are being upfront and clear in effectively communicating this with customers, as well as giving individuals the opportunity to control their own data.
Trust and transparency
While ensuring compliance with GDPR is of course hugely important, those that treat it merely as a tick box exercise will ultimately fail in this new consumer democracy. GDPR offers a unique opportunity to develop completely new ways of working that are based on the key principles of trust and transparency. In the long-term those businesses that embrace this culture-shift most successfully (and truthfully!) will emerge with a competitive advantage over those that don’t commit so genuinely.
Consumer behavior and attitudes continue to evolve at an astonishing rate and in often-unpredictable ways but who they are and what interests them will remain either unchanged or be clear to discern.
The brands that they invest in, financially and emotionally don’t necessarily need to fall-away as a result of these new consumer trends. If organisations have the right level of trust, their customers will choose to share their new behaviours and preferences, knowing that they will protect their personal data and respect their privacy at all times.
Beyond big data: smart data
One of the greatest failures of ‘big data’ is that it encouraged harvesting as much data as possible without necessarily asking why this data was needed and how it was going to be used. GDPR will break this cycle, turning big data into smart data. Now organisations will need to ask themselves why they want it and what they are planning on using it for. If everyone had done this years ago, then it would have made aspects such as personalisation much easier.
Going forward, it will be simpler for businesses to ensure they are looking at customer engagement across the entire life cycle and not just as a marketing exercise. Storing customer data for the benefit of the customer has to be the mantra, and organisations will need to have a clear vision and a wide understanding of what benefits and customer experience improvements will result from its use and communicate this to their customers.
New value exchange
Advocates of data value management have long urged organisations to see data as a corporate asset and now is the perfect time to do that.
By establishing what ‘good’ looks like (something that will vary depending on the nature of a particular business) and constantly asking ‘where’s the value?’, organisations can start to better measure the effectiveness of their data strategy and in turn make more use of data to improve the customer experience.
As well as harnessing data to improve the customer journey, GDPR presents a real chance for businesses to re-engage with customers and educate them on the benefits of data sharing. People will be happy to grant access to their data if their needs are being met.
By taking this approach, businesses can also get ahead of the game in terms of allaying any fears individuals may have around how their data is gathered and used. Showing that they have strong, secure data governance strategies in place can go a long way in fostering consumer trust and helping to build strong brand relationships, something which is good for everyone.
Data really does have the scope to revolutionise customer experience, but in order to gain access to good data organisations need to establish trust and to get that trust they need to be transparent.
There has already been a strong shift towards how people are starting to think about their data. Time poor and busy consumers are happy to surrender their precious data as long as they are confident that it is going to be used in an intelligent way that will ultimately make their lives easier. GDPR will only help to accelerate this, meaning more personalised and streamlined customer experiences, which can only be a positive thing for consumers.
Sourced by Dan Telling, managing director at Bench