Where there is no brand trust, there is no customer relationship. At a time when privacy dictates loyalty, such is the reputational challenge for today’s CMO.
Data privacy is front and center in every digital technology conversation today. CMOs are now the stewards of the brand-consumer relationship and the gatekeepers of the trust that can make or break it. At the same time, today’s CMO needs to focus on driving revenue as businesses recuperate from an unprecedented year. Balancing these divergent challenges is an intricate dance; part creativity, part analytics and now, a lot of heightened consideration around consumer privacy.
With ultimate accountability for consumer-facing content and execution across the entire span of the brand experience, and with data collection woven intricately throughout the purchase journey, marketers need to entice customers to engage and assure them their privacy is a top priority. Customers, meanwhile, also have dueling needs. Studies show that most consumers seek a more personalized digital experience, while even higher numbers are deleting apps or search histories in response to data privacy concerns.
To super-serve customers while also earning their continued trust, a CMO needs two vital elements in place: a privacy-first mindset and a fully engaged team within their organization.
With online consumers increasingly savvy about rights and responsibilities around their shared data, it’s not enough to view privacy as an obstacle to be navigated or an obligatory procedural step. When a brand solicits data from a consumer, it’s a significant ask that warrants assurances of responsibility around that consumer’s data.
From the online shopper’s side, privacy needs to be clearly communicated as a priority, including transparency around a brand’s policies. No longer will a vaguely worded pop-up with the standard “accept or don’t” verbiage suffice. What’s at stake is a social contract of sorts, in which the brand agrees to consistently demonstrate integrity through clearly articulated intentions and actions that support them. When businesses don’t follow through, it’s not simply an annoyance; It’s a break in trust that can end a customer relationship.
How can a CMO fortify that trust above and beyond transparency? Through proactive communication. When marketing makes the critical shift away from selling features and benefits toward servicing consumer needs, it becomes clear that any privacy pledge must be visible, regardless of the communication channel. Clear, consumer-friendly language needs to permeate all digital conversations in an intentionally visible way.
Internally, it’s also up to the CMO to impart privacy principles and their implications across teams so that all data privacy-related processes are consistently keeping consumers in mind first and foremost. In terms of infrastructure, this means centralizing sophisticated content management systems that holistically consider all touchpoints along the consumer purchase journey. If a customer opts for a newsletter, for example, but doesn’t sign up for the loyalty program, a central data system needs to record and facilitate that. Reciprocally, when a customer sees a brand’s system adapting in real-time to their individual preferences, brand trust is strengthened.
Acting in the interest of privacy-first also pushes a CMO to find creative ways of providing the personalized experience consumers want in less intrusive ways. To this end, companies may choose to remove outsource partners from the equation, leading them to leverage first-party data in creative, unprecedented ways. At its simplest level, this can mean opening more transparent conversations between brands and consumers at each data-sharing touchpoint along the consumer journey.
In terms of marketing efficiency, it can mean drilling down to see which kinds of data are truly actionable, not just gathered for the sake of compiling data but for the purposes of studying and understanding buyer behavior.
By viewing the overall effects of increased privacy as an opportunity to build customer trust and engagement while simultaneously flexing new creative opportunities, today’s CMO opens up fresh, safely targeted ideas.
Critical feedback from every level and department within an organization is needed throughout the data privacy development process and beyond to ensure success. To that end, in addition to communicating the imperative of a privacy-first mindset to in-house teams, a CMO’s rallying cry must also land solidly within the C-suite. Building and fortifying internal data privacy strategies across the board means championing initiatives with executive leadership from the start.
Starting with interdepartmental buy-in, the CMO can set up transparency around the mission and a content management system that stitches together the vital roles each department plays in its successful execution. The same goes for mid-level departments who may hang on to the outdated notion that data capture and policies fall solely under the purview of the technology team. This is where the inherent creativity of the CMO enables them to lead. By sharing the reasoning behind a privacy-first approach with all internal stakeholders, each is able to understand how they are directly impacted by getting it right, and how success depends on their collective buy-in.
By personalizing the internal experience of data privacy and with complete team commitment, what may have been seen as a chore can be repositioned as an opportunity. A CMO also has the space to work with project leads to test and adjust data privacy strategies, using the collaborative input of a fully engaged internal feedback loop. By perpetuating cross-functional investment, a CMO can enable innovative thinking, leading to team-driven solutions.
In approaching data privacy as both a vital imperative and as a customer service value, brands can move beyond simply fulfilling an obligation and move forward to unlock completely new ways to engage with consumers. Combining fresh ideas with well-earned trust, a CMO can shape and foster long-lasting trusting customer relationships.