row of guitars for sale hanging on a wall of a store
PHOTO: Obi Onyeador

This year for his birthday, my husband wanted an audio interface he found on the website of a vendor he’s had an over 20 year relationship with. So I ordered one. The order was placed by me, on my laptop, but shipped to my husband. I used my personal email, billing and payment information and his shipping information (which also happens to be our home address.)

Fast forward to a month later, and he’s back on this same vendor’s website. This time, he’s browsing for guitars. Using the browser on his desktop computer, he saves three guitars to his shopping cart without completing the transaction so he can show them to me before he decides on one. (He’s like that.) 

Which is why when I got an email from the vendor the following day, I knew it was related to him, and not to me. The subject line of the email was: “Are you ready to finish your order?” The content of the email was his shopping cart with the three guitars. He didn’t get this email — it was sent only to me. And a reminder: it wasn’t my shopping cart. It was his.

Personal Data and Digital Marketing Get Tricky

We’ve all grown used to the pop-up ads fueled by data management platforms that display an offer for items we’ve recently browsed. But this was different. It wasn’t a digital ad, but a direct communication. Remember, the browsing wasn’t done by me, and it wasn’t done on any of my devices either. Of course, it might be tricky to determine that we’re two different people since we share the same internet connection. But clearly the vendor has now matched my name, email and address — and obviously my IP address — with my husband.

With the GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), as well as other emerging data privacy laws, there seems to be a corresponding irony that marketers will have to dig deeper and really know more about customers so they can protect their customers’ privacy rights and comply with any consents that have been given.

Which makes me wonder: what happens if I consent, but my husband doesn’t? Or vice versa? How does a marketer ensure they are in compliance? With trust being a critical driver of consumer and business relationships, how does a company gain and maintain customer confidence through the responsible and transparent use of the data they collect?

Related Article: How to Handle the Crisis of Consumer Trust

Welcome to the Era of Data 3.0

These tricky questions will need to be answered as we continue with this next generation of data, the Data 3.0 era. In Data 3.0, data enables the entire business to be transformed through new business models and processes. Data 3.0 is happening because of five converging technology shifts. Any one of these shifts would be significant on their own. All five, when combined, create a generational market disruption. They include:

  1. Explosion in the volume of data: Data is being created everywhere and by everything. Marketers are capturing this data to glean insights so we can deliver relevant, context-based communications and interactions.
  2. New users: Knowledge workers and data scientists in marketing want access to data in real time to take real-time action on real-time issues or opportunities.
  3. New data types: It used to be that structured data was enough. To understand sentiment, risk and buying behavior today we utilize data that’s unstructured, streaming, coming from social media, and gathered from chatbots and other channels.
  4. Data in the cloud: Most of our marketing applications are not on premises any longer, they now exist in the cloud, and experts have estimated that more than 90% of our data will be in the cloud in the near future.
  5. Machine learning and AI: Not only can AI and ML provide faster insights at the speed and scale we require to be able to respond to market shifts and changes in customer behaviors, these new tools can also be trained to manage, optimize, and sift through our data to make it more accessible, usable, and relevant to our marketing campaigns and programs.

Related Article: 'Good Enough' Data Will Never Be Good Enough

A Framework for Privacy and Protection

We need to embrace these trends so we can use our data to answer more challenging and, yes, more probing questions. The answers will help us to not only comply with new regulations, but also to build relevance and be smarter in our interactions. And because we are able to collect and use more and more data about our customers, being good stewards of their personal data and respecting their privacy is a necessity.

If your organization has yet to create an approach to data privacy and protection, this six-step framework can help you create a foundation for enterprise data privacy. Use the framework to prepare for new expectations, standards and regulations in the Data 3.0 era:

  1. Define How Your Organization Processes Personal Data.
  2. Discover and Classify Personal Information. 
  3. Link Identities (individuals) to their Personal Data.
  4. Understand Personal Data Risk and Protection.
  5. Report and Respond to Rights Requests to Manage Data Protection.
  6. Track Compliance Progress and Communicate Readiness to Multiple Stakeholders.

With this data privacy framework for governance, marketers can manage and link identities with granular details about consents (which channel, what communication type, what contact information), fulfill regulatory rights, protect sensitive and personal information, and be transparent in how they use data at an individual level. And, perhaps, even avoid the communications mishap I encountered this summer. 

Related Article: Let 'Ethical By Design' Guide Your Use of Consumer Data

Stewarding Data for Trust and Transparency

Privacy responsibility — how we use, secure and share data — is increasingly becoming a differentiator in the Data 3.0 era. Get it wrong and we lose trust and credibility. But get it right and we gain the opportunity to cement customer loyalty and outpace the competition.

It’s widely believed many customers welcome an organization’s use of their data for the benefit of growing a relationship, easing the friction points, and providing relevant insights.

But a 2018 BCG survey found that only one in five customers trust us to do the right thing with their data.

It was a bit confusing, not to mention alarming, when I received the email with my husband’s shopping cart. For marketers, there is a new level of specificity and transparency in understanding what our customers want us to do with their data — starting with the requirements of data privacy and protection regulations. And it’s best we get started sooner rather than later.