The big tech data crisis is quickly coming to a head. Google is now the target of an investigation by 50 state attorneys general for its “potential monopolistic behavior,” and at least three democratic presidential candidates have said that making a move to break up Facebook and other major tech companies is worth strong consideration.
Whatever the outcome of these investigations, the future of big tech is looking more constrained. Being responsible with consumer data will be imperative, and the relationship these companies have with marketers will inevitably change.
And for many companies that depend on big tech for marketing tools — especially larger enterprises — these regulations will likely represent a significant shift in the way things are done.
The Threat of Anonymity
Fundamentally, these shifts are about consumer privacy. People are realizing just how much of their data they unwittingly gave to Facebook and Google for a long time without understanding what they were doing — and they’re not happy about it. Understandably, there’s now a demand for tech companies and marketers to handle that data more responsibly.
Marketers, though, fear that when users say they want data handling to be responsible, they really mean they want it to be anonymous. But strong relationships with consumers aren’t built on anonymity. That’s like throwing darts while wearing a blindfold in hopes of hitting the mark.
The internet, and the digital data it brought about, provides deeper insights into who consumers are, what they need, and how to reach them. Marketers can now pinpoint consumer interests with laser precision. It’s a mentality of “You like chocolate, so here’s an ad for Godiva” versus simply “We might find some people out there who would like this Godiva ad.”
Now, many companies face the question of how to avoid a breakdown in that quick, direct feedback loop, still target and tailor messaging to consumers, and also respect the need for privacy.
In the short term, you’ll likely see large enterprises affected more quickly, opening the door for smaller companies to step in and shake things up. In the long term, you’ll see consumers’ desire to protect their information translate into action. Instead of passively letting Facebook listen through their devices and serve them ads, people will closely guard their data and actively seek the brands they want to be involved with.
And an active consumer mindset is a gift for marketers because it creates strong, engaged brand advocates for years to come.
Create Healthy Data Habits
To engage proactive consumers and turn them into advocates, ensure that you’re practicing these five data habits:
- Own your data.
- As regulations hit big tech, it’s more important than ever that brands take charge of their customer relationships and own their customer data.
Don’t rely on a middle man. It’s easy to let Amazon do the work as a distributor. But what about your relationship with all those customers who buy your product through Amazon? You couldn’t plumb that data and directly reach those customers if you wanted to.
If you’re in the driver’s seat with your customers and you own their data (that you’ve collected responsibly), then the impact of regulations on Amazon or any other big tech company won’t be nearly as significant.
- Hand over control.
Consumers want to take back control, and they won’t suffer brands that are slow to relinquish it. If they feel a brand has used their data without their knowledge, 79% of consumers will opt out.
Let customers decide what they’re comfortable sharing with you. Different customers have different areas of sensitivity. Leaving it in their hands increases trust and the likelihood that you’ll get at least some data to work with.
- Be transparent.
Don’t leave your customers in the dark about how to find and adjust their privacy settings. Facebook has made it increasingly easy for users to dial in their share settings and data preferences, so brands should do the same.
Customers should be able to download their data, configure who has access to it, and easily understand what your company can see and do with it. The more they’re left to wonder, the more likely they are to leave.
- Incentivize openness.
With more consumers wary of handing over their data, brands will have to work hard to convince them why they should. Whether it’s access to special promotions, exclusive invites, or a more personalized experience, show your customers what they gain by letting you in.
Think about the user experience on Spotify. Because listeners can willingly let the app track what they listen to, it can make playlists that accurately reflect their interests and introduce them to new artists. That’s a tradeoff most are willing to make. What’s the tradeoff for your customers that make sharing information with you worth it?
- Follow through.
Just because a customer shared personal information with you once, it doesn’t mean he or she can’t revoke it later. Continue to maintain trust by sticking to the policies you’ve shared with your customers and keeping them informed of what’s going on with their data. The moment they question whether you’re being responsible, they will revoke access.
There is a sea change coming for how big tech handles our data, but there’s no need for marketers to panic. Get ahead of the changes with your own proactive data policies, and you can form an even stronger bond with your customers in the years ahead.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the CEOWORLD magazine.