Discovering the real value of data to your business

We have yet to harness the true value of data says Rachel Aldighieri, MD, Data & Marketing Association.

Discovering the real value of data to your business

We have yet to harness the true value of data says Rachel Aldighieri, MD, Data & Marketing Association. Creativity, accountability, ethics and consumer trust are essential components of building better business opportunities.

An increasing number of organisations are waking up to the myriad of opportunities that data, when used creatively, responsibly and sustainably, can offer both the business and the consumer.

In the digital world, every interaction leaves a data footprint – and organisations make no secret of the fact they want to get their hands on as much of it as they can. But why?

Because there is a notion that this data is valuable to organisations. It helps run their business, form engaging marketing campaigns and strategies, and provides them with key insights into their customers’ behaviour.

In principle, we need to arrive at a point where brands are interacting with customers in all kinds of meaningful ways, using data to create all kinds of unique experiences. Engaging consumers with the right opportunities at the right times.

For many businesses, data, and the insights they derive from it, is one of their greatest assets, if not their most valuable. In some instances, this data is the only asset they have.

An asset implies a value, so what’s the value of data?

The DMA’s ‘Value of Data’ campaign aims to elevate and champion the role of data, from classroom to boardroom – and help organisations across the UK responsibly deliver value to their customers.

This project aims to ask difficult questions about where the value of data really lies. In the data? Its quality? Its quantity? Or in the way we use it to create better outcomes for customers? By having better values, could organisations deliver better outcomes to their business, their customers, and society at large?

By finding the answers to these questions the initiative can introduce bold, innovative, data-led approaches to customer engagement, underpinned by solid ethical frameworks.

The project is bringing together key stakeholders across academia, government, and the public and private sectors to find outcomes that build better business through mutually beneficial, sustainable relationships with customers.

Laying the foundations – the role of regulation and compliance in building

A data-driven economy cannot function effectively without consumers trusting that organisations are putting their needs first and managing their personal information with care and due diligence.

In recent years, revisions to European data protection regulations, proactive enforcement by regulators like the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), as well as the unified efforts by organisations in the data and marketing industry, have helped lay the foundations for a global data revolution.

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 has reinforced the importance of accountability, transparency and security when it comes to data acquisition and management, or risk sanctions vastly bolstered by the new regulatory powers established by the GDPR.

Earlier this year, the hotel chain Marriott was fined for more than £99 million and British Airways was issued a fine of £183.39m. Highlighting just how much importance the regulator places on the security of customers’ data and how seriously businesses should take this issue.

The costs of mismanaging data to a business extend far beyond just fines, there can even be long-term effects on customer trust, share price and public perception that could have more lasting damage.

One of the knock-on effects of the GDPR and the penalties imposed on global brands is an enhancement of global data privacy standards.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the U.S., coming into effect in January 2020, will restrict how brands collect and hold consumer data, while giving consumers more control over how companies collect and profit from information. Under this legislation, consumers will be able to instruct tech companies, publishers or brands to delete their data and opt out from an organisation’s terms of service.

At a time when individuals are becoming increasingly aware and concerned about data privacy, a customer-led approach could be key to increasing trust and confidence.

Better data insights lead to more opportunities for both businesses and their customers, which inevitably should help improve the customer experience and ability for marketers to engage.

The value
exchange – enhanced data use can lead to better business

As consumers, we are increasingly becoming aware that by using digital platforms, such as search engines, social media, maps and other tools, we are essentially trading our personal information for access to services and products.

Over the past 18 months, there have been some encouraging findings to indicate that consumers are more willing to share data and marketers are more confident about their reputation in the eyes of consumers.

The DMA’s ‘Data Privacy: What the consumer really thinks’ report found that 51% of the respondents view data exchange as essential to the smooth running of the modern digital economy, up sharply from 38% in 2012. They are also receiving improved service by sharing their data, with 46% agreeing – up from 33% in 2012.

In addition, nearly half of marketers (49%) surveyed in the ‘Data Privacy: An Industry Perspective 2019’ report believe consumer trust has improved in how brands handle their data since the new regulations came into place. In addition, 46% state that trust has increased in brands and their marketing too.

DMA research has found that this may be contributing to an improvement with ROI metrics in various marketing channels. For example, the ‘Email Benchmarking Report 2019’ found that delivery, open, and click-to-open rates are the most encouraging figures reported over the past four years.

These findings suggest that as an industry we are heading in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of progress to be made.

The ICO’s ‘Information Rights Strategic Plan: Trust and Confidence’ report 2019 found that when consumers were asked if they trust brands with their data just 28% agreed. While this has increased by 6% since 2017, this number must be much higher if businesses are to truly thrive in the digital age.

Next steps – measuring the
true value of data

The current lack of universal quantification means data is likely to stay off the balance sheet for now. Organisations that work to identify the strategic value will undoubtedly be far better equipped to use it to create better customer experiences, develop better products and make new breakthroughs in innovation.

This is simply because valuing data isn’t without its complexities. Who ascertains its value in a data-driven economy? Is it the brand or consumer, or both?

The value chain is no longer simple or linear. The interplay of values with measurable value and the role that ethics play in enabling companies to responsibly deliver value to their customers all add challenging dimensions to address.

Defining the true value of data will come down to organisations coming together, asking the big questions, sharing insights and case studies through the campaign’s research, roundtables, networking events and seminars.

We want to prove that doing the right thing with data builds better and stronger business connections. There is a clear role for ethical frameworks to showcase data as a true force for good.

Innovation in the future must be an
opportunity, not a threat

GDPR is only the first step. We’re heading into a future powered by artificial intelligence, where our lives will increasingly be run by algorithms. When things go right, they will go wonderfully right, and when things go wrong, they will look like something out of TV’s Black Mirror.

What that means in real terms is that if we are incorrectly profiled by an algorithm, we could lose access to products, services and at times even our rights as a consumer.

It has never been such an important time to think about our values as individuals, organisations and a society to ensure we’re putting down the right ethical foundations for future generations.

In an era of mass personalisation and technological innovation, we need to demonstrate that the data consumers share is used to serve them better.

There is a growing requirement to reassure them that we have the infrastructure and ethical frameworks in place to build valuable, sustainable relationships.

With technologies such as AI having a transformative impact on business, there is little doubt that, as they continue to evolve, the data sets they rely on will be key to competitive advantage.

However, as issues around data value and ownership continue to come under scrutiny, transparency over how customer data is handled and safeguards protecting privacy will be key factors in whether increasingly ‘data savvy’ and empowered consumers agree to share this data with organisations.

Rather than risking reputational damage, acting as a trusted steward when it comes to protecting customer data is vital for businesses.

Ensuring transparency and governance over information processes will become more crucial than ever if organisations are to maintain increasing engagement and goodwill – and continue to benefit from free-flowing access to customer data.   

The most important thing to remember, as we navigate through the data revolution, is that responsible and innovative data use can build consumer trust and the inclination to share their insights, which leads to better business opportunities and results.

As our Value of Data campaign progresses, we aim to have the answers to some of the business-critical questions challenging the business community.


Rachel Aldighieri,
Rachel Aldighieri,

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