Tara Kelly, CEO, SPLICE Software
People all over the world are increasingly worried about their digital privacy. High-profile hacking incidents that compromise personal and financial information are constantly in the news. A recent survey found that eight out of 10 Americans don’t like being tracked online, and more than 70 percent are more concerned about their privacy now than they were 10 years ago.
Consumers’ concerns about online privacy are certainly reasonable. On the other hand, willingness to share information with the brands they like can open new opportunities to find bargains and improve customers’ overall experience. Even better, Marketo’s recent State of Engagement survey showed that 2 out of 3 consumers want to advocate for brands that engage and show they care. To solve this dilemma, brands need to find a way to communicate and engage with customers without coming across as creepy and intrusive.
That can be a challenge, but the easiest way to overcome it is to enlist customers in your efforts to navigate the space between proactive communication and privacy invasion. To do so, it’s helpful to understand the difference between big and small data. Big data is large caches of information about groups. Small data comprises details about individuals. Put more simply, big data includes everything you know and learn about your customers across every touchpoint; small data is the stuff your customers share with you individually that you can use to make their experience more personal.
Both are important for customer outreach, and experienced marketers know big data can yield important clues about individuals. But small data is crucial to building customer loyalty and engaging in two-way conversations. And the basis of the formation of a productive relationship with customers is a value exchange: Customers are willing to share data if they consistently receive value in return.
The holiday buying season is a great time to leverage or establish trust-based relationships with customers, and it starts by signaling that you respect their preferences regarding contact. When you ask customers to share personal information, make the value proposition clear — let them know what to expect. And ask them how they’d prefer that you contact them, and respect their wishes.
The line between legitimate contact and intrusiveness isn’t always well-defined, but most of us know it when we see it. For example, if you met someone at a business function and exchanged email addresses to stay in contact, but that person then used your name and email address to look up your phone number and called you, you’d probably find that a bit creepy — even though it’s publicly available information.
Customers feel the same way when their personal information is used in a way they did not explicitly authorize. So, ask customers about contacting them in the future. Find out their preferred communication methods and platforms. And make the payoff clear to them, e.g., discounts, more relevant offers, etc. That’s the way adults establish mutually respectful relationships, in personal life or in business.
Once the communication framework is identified, e.g., voice messages, text, social media, etc., it’s time to deliver value. The nature of that value will depend on the type of merchandise you offer and the customers’ preference. Examples of communications might include texts to update customers on deliveries, special events (in-store or online) that align with their interests and more.
That’s where the small data becomes so important. Using the previous example, if you exchanged information with that person at a business function and he shared not only his email address but his birthday and favorite author, a failure to wish him a happy birthday or to acknowledge that author information wouldn’t necessarily hurt the relationship, but including that information can make the relationship far stronger than it would be by ignoring it. The same is true with your customer engagement. Sending a birthday message via email (his channel of choice) or referencing that author in a future message would make you stand out, because he shared the information freely.
A communications strategy that allays security fears and aligns with customer permissions and preferences makes it that much more likely that consumers will turn to you when they’re in the “micro-moment” — which Google defines as the instance when people look for information about a product or make a buying decision. So, be proactive, but keep respectful boundaries, and you’ll set yourself up for success in the holiday season.
About the Author: A serial innovator, published author and founder, president and CEO of SPLICE Software, Tara Kelly (@tktechnow) is passionate about technology’s potential to change lives for the better. She has consistently channeled that belief into developing technologies that enhance operations, enable better service delivery, and improve the customer experience. This has led to the creation of three customer experience companies and turning an innovative idea into a patented, proprietary technology (US Patent Number 9348812) that harnesses data streams to create personalized, automated messages. The technology solution was included in Gartner’s “Cool Vendors in Insurance, 2016” report and Forrester’s “IoT and Analytics Startups Can Turn Insurers into the ‘Good Guys’” brief.
Kelly – an open source activist and recognized user experience designer – served as a board member for the International Board for Voice User Interface Design, the Canadian Cloud Council, Technology Alberta and is a member of the Entrepreneurs Organization. Kelly’s expertise combined with tenacity, understanding of market trends, and strong communication skills has allowed her to create dynamic solutions and successful teams; not only in her businesses, but also as a community leader on volunteer boards including Food for the Sol, EO Water Walk, and Special Olympics Ontario. Kelly shares these experiences – and her goal of creating a healthy, humane work environment – in the recently published book, Our Journey To Corporate Sanity: Transformational Stories from the Frontiers of 21stCentury Leadership.