If you’re not sure if your data is secure, be sure to check out my latest article on data security while working from home.
More Devices and More Data Need More Management
With the outgrowth of the Internet of Things (IoT), marketing teams now have massive amounts of data to collect about their customers. They can find out where they are, what time they exercise, how much they text, and even how well they sleep. But the flip side of connected devices is that they produce a lot of data your company doesn’t really need. I know most companies probably have data stored in multiple places, from multiple sources. This is where a customer data platform can help. I’ve written here on Forbes a few times about customer data platforms, but as a quick recap: A customer data platform is a growing category and solution set being developed by companies like SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, Segment and Microsoft among many others, that can serve as a single point of truth for customer information. They allow you to gather information from many different channels, platforms, and devices into one location to create a whole and up-to-date view of your customer. With that unified view, you can quickly determine what data you actually need and what data you don’t.
After all, every piece of data you collect is a security risk; you need to make the risk justifiable. Where does your company stand in terms of being intentional with the data it collects?
Security and Transparency Need to be Part of Your Brand
Customers aren’t stupid. They understand that their data is valuable and in today’s market, they want full transparency about how you may use it. They don’t want to provide it for no reason, and they certainly don’t want to offer it up to companies who won’t take care of it. As the big data market — and big data security — continue to grow, it’s on marketers to understand how privacy and security play into their over customer experience and brand. And I don’t just mean posting a note on the home-page warning customers you’re nabbing their data. I mean taking a proactive approach to being transparent about data use at every point of the customer journey, and making the customers’ sharing of data “worth it” at every stage. That also means explaining who you are selling data to. Customers know that if they’re getting a service for free, it’s in exchange for data. So what are you doing with that data? Who has access to it?
A customer data platform acts as sort of a paper trail for data. You can see where your customer data came from which is especially important in terms of compliance and privacy regulations like the GDPR and the CCPA. From a marketing perspective, you can also say with certainty that you don’t collect data from third-parties or that you only collect certain kinds of data. That’s what customers want.
Many of you probably remember the wave of security news with Zoom? After its rapid rise amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Zoom was scrutinized for lack of transparency about their data collection practices. This serves as a good example for brands in dealing with data. Be up front, correct the mistakes, close the loopholes, and strengthen your security — customers will notice.
Granular Insights are Essential to Personalization
In 2020, customers don’t just want personalization, they expect it. All of the data you’re able to collect from your customers now will allow you to get to know them on the granular level, creating even more customized communications, product recommendations, and offers (and also creating an even greater responsibility to keep the data safe). While the big data security market is destined to be worth 64 billion+ in coming years, how much big data is worth to your company isn’t that clear cut. The value of your data will always depend on how well you use it. That’s why you also need to ensure you have clear plans in place to determine how to use the data you collect, at which parts of the customer journey, and to what end.
Automation is Essential
It’s one thing to collect a lot of data. It’s another to be able to use all of the data you gather in a meaningful way. The only way to do that today is through automation. Using AI and machine learning will allow you to pull those predictive insights from your data that make the difference between customers feeling known and appreciated, and simply getting irritated by the “spam” you continue to send them. It can even help with content generation—helping to change content in real time if a campaign isn’t performing well or tweaking content to fit a specific customers’ taste. Not only that, it will save your teams lots of time and energy so they can focus on other more creative things. Trying to manage data without automation at this point in history would be completely pointless—there is simply too much to manage.
And lastly: always be ready for the industry to upend itself. Just as we are seeing right now with the impact of coronavirus, the companies that are most agile are the ones that can withstand the greatest sudden change. And change is the only thing we can really expect in digital transformation. In the future, for instance, there may come a day when customers are able to demand payment for their data or lobby for the ability to hide data from companies altogether. How will your company handle it? Would your entire business model fall apart, or would you have other things—customer loyalty, a history of transparency—to hold you in place? Big data security is growing because the creation of data—and our appetite for it—continues to grow. Make sure your company is finding a similar benefit.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.