Marketing professionals have been collecting, analyzing, and utilizing customer data for as long as marketing itself has been around.
But here in the digital age, it’s all too easy to take modern tracking technology too far and alienate your customers in the process.
Techniques like cookie-based recommendations, location tracking, and even device listening aren’t rare or new anymore when it comes to data-centric marketing.
Their effectiveness at customizing the consumer experience has made them the new standard.
However, there’s a fine line between useful and intrusive as far as your customers are concerned, and developing a human-first data experience is the key to walking it successfully.
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What is a Human-First Data Experience?
Thanks to the internet and the ubiquity of mobile technology, it’s possible to do just about anything remotely these days.
You can shop for groceries, pay your bills, and manage your credit. You can earn a living.
Even quintessential human experiences like catching up with a relative or making a new friend can easily be done at a distance, making it all too easy to forget there are actual human beings behind all the associated data.
A human-first data experience doesn’t eliminate the collection or use of all this detailed information.
However, it does take the customer’s preferences as to how their data is used into consideration as an essential part of the equation.
The result is a customer experience that feels intuitive, helpful, and adequately customized to meet individual needs without also feeling intrusive or exploitative.
What are the Benefits of a Human-First Data Experience?
Your customers are people, and people care deeply about how their sensitive, personal information is used.
And when marketers put people first, everyone wins.
Here are a few of the most significant benefits attached to choosing a “people first” approach to how your company collects and leverages consumer data for marketing purposes.
Forge lasting relationships with your customers
A relationship between a business and its customers has more in common with other types of relationships than you think.
To begin with, it’s a two-way street that requires both parties to give something of themselves if things are going to work.
Consumers can become deeply invested in the brands they trust their lives to, and the companies behind those brands should feel equally invested in their customers.
Being openly transparent and respectful when it comes to using collected data isn’t just a powerful way to show your customers you genuinely do care about them.
With people becoming increasingly suspicious of invasive marketing tactics, this is a way to show your clientele you likely care about them more than your competitors do.
Customers who feel cared about and respected can become fiercely loyal to your brand.
They come back to buy from you again and again, as well as recommend to their friends that they do the same.
Achieve a higher return on your investment
Loyal customers aren’t just more likely to express satisfaction with a purchase decision.
They’re more than five times as likely to buy from you again in the future, as well as four times as likely to recommend your products and services to friends, acquaintances, and loved ones.
Social proof is a decisive factor in where people decide to spend their money, so word-of-mouth recommendations are precious.
It’s also around five times as costly to attract and convert new customers as it is to retain the ones you’ve already got.
A human-first data experience is an effective way to inspire customer loyalty that supports repeat purchases and raises customer retention rates.
That means a higher return on your marketing efforts and a healthier bottom line overall.
Stand apart from your competition
Companies that stay on top of industry trends and develop innovative ways to leverage them successfully are companies that come out on top.
Right now, businesses that aren’t afraid to show their human side are red hot.
Consumers are also increasingly tired of marketing campaigns that take data gathering and customized recommendations too far.
Brands, companies, and marketing campaigns that can leverage respectful data use as a selling point are becoming increasingly relevant.
They’re growing faster and generating more of a buzz. They’re also standing head and shoulders above competitors that don’t yet understand the value of a truly human experience.
When and How Personalized Experiences Can Feel Intrusive
With the internet and mobile technology becoming bigger parts of everyday life, people share an immense amount of personal data, sometimes without realizing it.
Web cookies track people’s browsing habits. Social media sites and mobile apps of all kinds collect and organize many personal details, as well.
By analyzing this data thoroughly, savvy marketers can know modern consumers almost better than they know themselves.
Data can tell you what kind of people your customers really are, what types of content genuinely capture their attention, and what products they’re in the market for, right down to the last detail.
The marketing world hasn’t been the same since.
Targeted marketing all but eliminates the need to guess what your potential customer might be interested in, and the results have been incredible.
Personalized, targeted ads have a much higher success rate than traditional alternatives.
But it’s becoming increasingly rare for a consumer not to understand what a prominent role their personal data plays in the eerily accurate ads they see virtually everywhere, and they have mixed feelings about that.
On the one hand, people love experiences that are accurately tailored to their needs and preferences without them even having to ask.
On the other, they don’t want their data mishandled or for marketers to pry further into their lives than they’d like.
The digital marketer’s job is to figure out the difference, and the following factors often come into play:
Nature of the Information
Research shows that the more intimate and personal a piece of information is, the less comfortable a person is with someone else knowing about it.
Examples include details related to their finances, health, or sex lives — topics the average person typically keeps to himself or wouldn’t want to discuss in front of other people.
How the Information is Shared
It’s not just the type of information being shared that makes a difference to your customers. It’s the path that information takes as it passes from one set of hands to another.
Even consumers who are OK with first-person sharing (the direct disclosure of their personal information) often feel very differently about third-person sharing (information shared without their knowledge).
These patterns hold true of personal relationships, as well.
For instance, no one likes finding out a trusted friend passed on information shared in confidence, even if the information isn’t particularly sensitive.
People don’t like it when others infer personal details about them, either, even when they are correct.
Whether Privacy Feels Violated
People also react strongly to whether or not social norms governing privacy feel violated by a particular advertisement or marketing tactic.
Again, people don’t necessarily mind being shown targeted ads based on information they’ve willingly shared publicly or with a business.
But interest in the ad drops significantly if it’s based on inferred information or details passed from one company to another without their understanding or explicit consent.
People also tend to dislike ads that leverage device listening technology.
They don’t like to feel like their phones, smart speakers, and other smart devices are eavesdropping on their private conversations.
Geotracking tech and advertising based on third-party cookies can inspire similar feelings in consumers that their privacy is being violated.
How to Build a World-Class Human-First Data Experience
Naturally, the answer isn’t to stop collecting, analyzing, and utilizing data altogether.
Customers actually enjoy personalization and prefer to see ads that are relevant to their interests and needs.
However, good business practices dictate that marketers also treat consumers with respect and use data responsibly.
Human-first data experiences are the key to making sure everyone’s happy.
Here are some terrific expert tips for crafting one of your own to the tune of excellent results.
1. Collect data upfront
The best time to collect valuable information from existing or potential customers is at the point when you first make contact with them.
This could happen when the customer makes a purchase or signs up to receive newsletters, coupons, deals, or other communications from your company.
It could also occur via an application for a membership or loyalty program.
Get any information you’re likely to need from your customer then while they’re having an interaction they initiated.
Be as brief as possible to avoid losing their attention while remaining thorough. People don’t generally like to be asked for additional data later on down the line.
2. Respect customer preferences
Don’t assume it’s obvious to the customer that you’ll be using information they provide to contact them later.
Instead, err on the side of caution and explicitly ask them for permission to do so if that’s your intention.
Make sure you also honor any preferences they’ve given regarding how they’d like to be contacted.
For instance, if they’ve said it’s OK to contact them by text or email, don’t bother them with phone calls even if they’ve provided a phone number.
3. Avoid the creep factor
Modern technology makes it incredibly easy to use information you already have about someone to uncover even more information about that same person.
But you risk alienating your customers and making them feel stalked if you do that.
When contacting or advertising to your customers, stick to using information they’ve willingly given you via a contact form, survey, or other avenues.
You’ll want to avoid doing anything else that violates a customer’s privacy, as well, like selling their information to third parties without their express consent.
4. Be as transparent as possible
Trust is everything when it comes to today’s business-client relationships.
Break a customer’s trust even once, and you’re highly likely to lose the customer. And if the violation was severe enough, they may spread the word to others they know, as well.
Transparency is a compelling way to ensure trust stays intact.
Preempt the backlash that can come with targeted advertising by offering to disclose information about why the person is seeing the ad. (Think about the clickable feature on Facebook that lets users find out “why am I seeing this ad”.)
And as always, stick to using only information consumers have willingly given you.
5. Preserve consumer autonomy
Loss of control is at the heart of many concerns modern consumers have about data sharing and the potential loss of privacy.
If a third-party business with whom they’ve never had direct contact can get a hold of their personal information without their say-so, who else might be able to do the same?
How might that information be used against them down the line?
Never allow your customers to feel like they’re not the ones in charge of their experience.
Give them as much say as possible in how their shared information may be used to market to them in the future.
The more control a would-be customer feels they have, the more likely they are to be generous with their data in the first place.
6. Have good reasons for leveraging data
Consumers also respond favorably when businesses readily reveal why a particular piece of information may have been used to generate an ad or otherwise make a suggestion.
Let’s use geotracking information as an example.
When a customer’s physical location is used to generate an ad without explanation, it can backfire.
But when the person is told why — perhaps that they are eligible for a perk or service option that isn’t available anywhere else — they’ll respond more favorably.
Remember, there’s a very fine line between pleasantly helpful and downright creepy, and transparency is often what makes the difference.
Wrap Up: Using Data Wisely for a Human-First Data Experience
Proactively making your business and marketing practices more people-friendly isn’t just a good idea.
It’s a must for any business owner serious about cultivating the lasting, trust-driven relationships customers are looking for these days.
So is developing a working understanding of all aspects of data-driven marketing.
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