According to a recent Accenture Pulse Check, 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience. The report also noted that, “Consumers don’t want brands to define their journeys, they want brands to offer experiences that help them carve their own paths.”
Brands can open up conversational dialogue with customers by using a living profile, which gives consumers the ability to create their own personalized experiences by using data.
What is a living profile?
First things first – what is a living profile? Whether you call it a living profile or a self-service preference center, the concept is to provide customers complete personal data control from a single portal, accessible from any device or platform. A living profile is valuable, as it helps to curate the experiences, offers, and products customers receive.
This idea did not fall from the sky. In fact, understanding its origins and development is key to understanding the current demand for data privacy that’s dominating boardroom discussions around the globe. So, let’s examine what customer control of personal data means, why it’s a crucial part of a winning digital strategy, and how you can best deliver it to your consumers.
Data abuse: The digital equivalent of the Wild West
Consumers (and legislators) haven’t always shared today’s level of concern about data privacy. Until recently, people shopped online, indicated likes and dislikes, and created accounts through the lens of saving time, getting good deals, and finding what they’re looking for with less effort.
All the while, companies feasted on the data these behaviors generated. Many companies collected and processed customers’ personal data without their consent. They bought and sold terabytes of third-party consumer data from data brokers, using it to power personalization engines, automate individual decision-making, and other powerful marketing technologies.
Governments and customers had little control of this situation, if any. It was basically the digital equivalent of the Wild West.
Sick and tired: The customer revolution is born
Spooked by massive data breaches and data misuse scandals, and sick of being inundated with spam and stalked around the internet by the same digital ads for weeks, consumers began demanding change.
In 2016, EU regulators responded by drafting the GDPR. To give businesses time to address the considerable complexity of its requirements, the EU instituted a two-year transition period before it began enforcing the regulation. When consumer privacy concerns reached a fever pitch due to the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal, many saw GDPR as the solution.
Why? The regulation establishes new rights for consumers, or “data subjects”, that require businesses to empower customers with total visibility, access, and control of their personal data. This includes rights to:
- Data erasure (to be forgotten)
- Restrict data processing
- Data portability
- Object to data processing
- Automated decision-making and profiling protections
- Be informed
- Data access
- Data rectification
The ultimate goal of these new rights: Enable customers to dictate their own terms of engagement with brands.
Now that GDPR enforcement has begun, consumers will increasingly expect brands to offer this kind of granular access and control. In fact, the most prominent change marketers have noticed as their organizations implement GDPR compliance initiatives is a heightened consumer awareness of data and security issues.
More control is what consumers and EU regulators are looking for, and regulations like the GDPR are the mechanisms that compel organizations to provide it.
The link between control and trust
By enabling customers to shape their own experiences, a comprehensive yet intuitive preference center offers businesses a chance to build trust and strengthen loyalty with consumers. It also provides a platform for addressing the GDPR’s requirements in a centralized way.
To fulfill this promise, though, this preference center must be built on a unified, living profile that serves as the single source of customer data across the organization. This provides a more streamlined and consistent experience for customers, and enables bi-directional synchronization between this profile and the rest of the digital enterprises’ arsenal of customer engagement technologies.
Instead of maintaining multiple silos of profile, preference, and consent data, consolidating these attributes into a unified profile makes it easier for consumer permissions to be pushed out to other systems, and vice-versa. In this way, the business can continue to innovate around increasingly personalized marketing, sales, and service strategies, while ensuring that each customer’s wishes are honored across his or her entire omni-channel journey.
Piecing together the customer trust puzzle
While giving customers control of their data and experiences is a core pillar of today’s data privacy-focused landscape, it’s hardly the only one. A truly holistic approach to building trusted customer relationships means:
- Being clear and transparent with consumers about how and why their data is collected and processed
- Striving for cross-functional buy-in across the organization to implement “privacy by design” systems and practices
- Developing new strategies for preventing and responding to data breaches and increasingly sophisticated cyber criminal activities