Data relevance may not cut it with consumers. So what will?


Data relevance may not cut it with consumers. So what will?

Justin Peyton

Consumers want more from brands in return for their data than well-targeted messages. So what can brands offer them?

Data relevance may not cut it with consumers, but reciprocity just might.

With every year comes a new set of trends and technologies for marketers to chase. Who will be first to develop a VR campaign or to use voice in the market, and in the category? While brands can skip opening a new social channel on the latest platform and still grow, within all the noise there are also larger macro-trends that highlight shifts in consumer expectations. Ignoring these larger trends presents greater risk. The most recent of these macro-trends has been relevance. It is the foundation that underpins the majority of new adtech and key shifts in brand marketing.

Brands want to become more data-centric to create relevant insights Brands are moving media spend to programmatic channels for relevant targeting.

Brands are investing more in influencers to provide relevant recommendations.

In recent years relevance has become “the one ring to rule them all” and while I don't see that changing, I am not sure it will be enough going forward. A new trend is emerging that will once again re-shape consumer expectations in ways that brands will be forced to adhere to.


What are you giving back to your consumers in exchange for their engagement, for their data? Is relevant insight about your product going to be enough? Are you “earning” their data? With more and more projects putting access to consumer data directly into the hands of the consumer, this is something brands must start to ask themselves. 

Projects such as The Data Transfer Project, which was recently announced as an open-source collaboration between Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter has the intention of helping consumers safely transfer their online data between service providers whenever they want. And in the future projects like this may also help consumers prevent brands from using or accessing their data for unwanted purposes.

The point being that as consumers get more control, brands need to consider how they “earn” their data if they want to access. And what better way to earn their data (i.e. trust) than to do it in the way people have always learned to trust each other: through reciprocal acts of kindness. Reciprocity.

This might sound far-fetched, but the need for reciprocal brand thinking is coming faster than we would expect. In fact, there are many industries where it is already here. Take the UK banking industry for example. There, new open banking regulations allow people to move their financial data from one provider to another at will making account mobility easier. The impact has been an accelerated uptake of the new fintech banks such as Monzo and Atom bank that use consumer data to inform unique services and to better protect customers from fraud. With their growth coming at the expense of the legacy banks, their success at “earning” data through reciprocity cannot be ignored.

But reciprocity isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Le’ts take another banking example, but this time closer to home. I have a credit card whose due date is the 20th of each month. The issuing bank also receives my salary which is deposited on the 25th of each month. The bank has both data points, and if they had a reciprocal approach, they would have offered to move the payment date to help with cash flow. That’s a reciprocal act deserving of a consumer’s data. That would earn trust and loyalty.

So those are finance brands, your brand might not have so much data to begin with, so why should you care? Because even traditionally data-poor industry sectors are being challenged and transformed by the brands who adopt a reciprocal mindset demonstrates the real opportunity:

Starbucks: Use social media as a channel to thank consumers through the use of their content (UGC) resulting in high levels of consumer participation and loyalty

Nike: Leverages Nike+ to get more data about consumers that can be used for marketing, but in return they give consumers better insights about their health and more importantly, they enable competition with friends around the world

Amazon Prime – Amazon uses consumer data to market to people in many ways, but in return Prime members receive a long list of benefits. Yes, the benefits are designed to keep you locked in, but given that they have real value and come at no additional cost, it feels like a reciprocal act of kindness

Putting data at the core of everything to drive relevance is a great first step, but the above brands demonstrate reciprocity through a value exchange that consumers recognize. And value exchange is increasing important as research demonstrates that leading customer experience brands in each industry grow profit margins at a faster pace than the number two brand in the same industry.

In turn, the margin expansion further propels the leading brands to the deficit of all others. So, don't satisfy yourself with relevance. It’s a great start, but it’s important to always be looking further down the road.

It’s time to start thinking about earning your consumers data.

It’s time to think about value exchange.

It’s time to consider how you will prepare your brand for the emerging trend of reciprocity.

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