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GUEST COMMENT GDPR: A new age of personalised customer experience

GDPR holds the protection of consumer rights as its central priority

The implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is just around the corner, and it is about to usher in an age of improved customer experiences.

GDPR holds the protection of consumer rights as its central priority and, come 25th May, will be fundamental to how all EU consumer data is stored and developed. Retailers will now need customers to double opt-in to the use of their data to personalise experiences. Respecting the customer’s choice when they remain “opted-out” is crucial. But then so is giving them every reason to opt-in, as well as rewarding that faith by providing the best individual customer experience possible.

Below, we identify the ways in which retailers can embrace the new landscape of collaboration and consent, and ensure customers receive the experience they desire in an ethical and positive way.

The power of personalisation

From banking to social media to online shopping – the “always on” consumer has come to expect high levels of personalisation from services they engage with as careless and untailored communications diminish the reputation of a brand and its standing in a customer’s eyes.
In recent years, personalisation has become a lifeline for brands looking to deliver individualised customer experiences – and those that have executed tailored services to high standard, have reaped the rewards in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Research from think tank Nunwood Customer Experience Excellence Centre revealed that companies like Netflix and Amazon are leading the way when it comes to personalising customer services.

Amazon, for example, is often held as the pinnacle of ‘the right way to do personalisation’ because of the tactful way the company approaches it. The site can pinpoint exactly what a customer has browsed on the site in the past, as well as use recent purchases to inform the promotional messaging without aggressively pushing the sale. This personalised approach has to date been extremely successful with consumers and has seen an increase in ROI for retailers and increase of brand engagement.

The delivery of this personalisation, however, is increasingly coming under scrutiny. Within digital marketing, consumer’s data is the source used to deliver intelligent and engaging experiences as it is this data that informs messaging and reduces friction in the customer journey. Unfortunately, it’s become apparent that some organisations have been exploiting consumer data – often illegally – for elicit reasons, and as the deadline for GDPR compliance looms large, how data is used is being pulled into sharp focus by regulatory bodies, law enforcement agents and even customers themselves.

Consumers, who previously gave little thought to what their personal information might be used for, are now acutely aware that their data is being leveraged by third party forces. This awareness is leading to questions being asked of retailers. One question is – how will retailers proceed with personalised marketing? How will they uphold the ethics the era of GDPR demands? And how will they instil confidence in their customers that they will use their data appropriately in the process?
Neither customer nor retailer will want to lose the power of personalisation or stop experiencing its benefits, but to sustain personalisation in the era of GDPR, retailers will need to act with total transparency and impeccable execution.

The customer’s consent is key

Consent is the central theme of GDPR. The legislation itself is clear in laying out how a data subject’s consent should be given willingly and in an informed, direct way. This should be delivered through a clearly defined statement from the data subject that indicates the agreement to the processing of their data. The double opt-in is the main component: prospects will have to both fill out a form or tick a box and also confirm by email that they want to sign up.

Opt-in, rather than opt-out, is fundamental to how GDPR differs from previous regulations. Once a customer has opted in, only then can their data be used to individualise their experience. Understanding and facilitating this is how retailers can begin to ensure an improved, smooth and positive customer journey.

Selecting the right GDPR consent management tools, will help avoid the risk of tarnishing their reputation in the market and prevent them from facing considerable fines. Educating employees on how to configure customer engagement platforms correctly and installing a transparent process of consent collection is also integral to compliance and positive customer relationships.

Unison between human and technological processes is important for retailers going forward, as it can often be the case that the same customer data, with different levels of authorisation for usage, can exist in siloed systems. Customer engagement platforms with built in GDPR consent tools that aggregate data from multiple sources can ensure consistent compliance, regardless of where the data resides.

Repairing relationships

Consumers are rightly becoming more inquisitive of how their data is safeguarded and used. GDPR will play a big part in how relationships between brands and consumers evolve. By transforming consent and transparency, GDPR has the potential to repair relationships that are perhaps currently in question.

Recently, a survey by Engage Hub – looking at the fragile nature of customer experience – revealed that 54% of people have been driven away to competitors as a result of bad customer experience. In addition, one in five highlighted that customer service standards have declined in the last year. With this in mind, brands should look at GDPR as a good opportunity to take a step back and review processes already in place objectively – looking at what works and what needs to be improved.

Unwaveringly direct communication is the best

While Retailers consider how to deliver personalised experiences in a regulated environment, the most important thing not to lose sight of is – how to gain the data subject’s consent to start this intelligent customer journey.

The key will be to clearly explain why specific data is useful to them and underline dogmatically how this can be used to provide a more targeted and tailored customer experience. This could be something as simple as stating that multiple addresses are held to ensure a parcel is delivered on the occasion you are stuck in the office and it cannot be delivered to your home address.

Retailers need to embrace transparency and unwavering, direct communication. Through this means, brands can start a new era that is refreshing and collaborative which places consent at the forefront of activity. Retailers can continue to conduct smart approaches to customer experience, but this time in a more engaging way that includes the customer and rejuvenates brand loyalty.

Author: Nigel Linton, Digital Marketing Manager, Engage Hub

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