Customer experiences people trust require data trust

Jed Mole Acxiom
Jed Mole, chief marketing officer, Acxiom, Matterkind and Kinesso

It’s on marketers to explain how customer data allows brands to provide them with better experiences and greater value.

Marketers could be forgiven for popping Milk of Magnesia instead of Moët this New Years as we gear up for another year of heartburn. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom if we use 2022 to rethink the customer experience, which the pandemic changed dramatically as so much activity moved to digital. 

Even how we think about customer experience is due for an upgrade. The days when we could think about customers having a singular experience with a brand are long gone. Now, every product and service experience can be shared, rated and commented on.

Everyone’s experience has the potential to influence us, and our experience of a purchase influences many others' perceptions of the brand we bought first.

Customer experiences are now collective. The memory of this collective experience lives online forever and is largely visible to anyone who goes looking for it.

The stakes have never been higher to get the customer experience right — at a time when new pressures are making that even harder. 

Data is destiny 

Today, it’s not enough to just acquire a customer. Marketers must engage customers around one product while enticing them to interact with a larger portfolio. Beyond that, many marketers also must leverage partnerships and nurture even more complex experiences and relationships. Pass the antacid! 

To have a fighting chance at delivering and sustaining good customer experiences, brands must understand their customers using robust data. The paradox, however, is that to understand customers and deliver good experiences that grow customer trust, you need data in the first place.

This need for data is growing as consumers misunderstand and feel uneasy about how their data is being used. It’s on marketers to demystify the complexity and explain to customers how their data allows brands to provide them with better experiences and greater value. 

Explaining the value exchange 

Brands can help customers appreciate that their data made a good experience possible. When brands are proactive and transparent in explaining how data powers user experiences, they can create “I believe” moments. Customers believe in the brand and the experience through their own eyes and ears. They believe their data has been put to good use because it’s benefiting them.

Here’s what this can look like, from the customer’s point of view:

Person to product: They respect me, they speak with relevance, I had a great experience.

Person to portfolio: I’d buy again, I’d buy more, they treat me like they know me and care about me.

Person to partners: I trust them, I believe their promises, so I’ll trust their partners, too. 

Brands that don’t embrace their data story – or even worse, try to obscure it – risk losing customer trust and the potential for deep and lasting relationships. Given that data increasingly not just drives the marketing experience, but actual products and services, getting this wrong can be an existential threat. 

Building data trust

Data requires trust, but data can also build trust. That doesn’t happen with just one positive experience; it’s earned over time by providing sustained and transparent value across multiple touchpoints.

Three fundamentals for building data trust: 

  • Keep data safe and secure: Don’t lose it, don’t misuse it.
  • Put data close to the customer: Provide access and control so they can switch it off or, ideally, make it better.
  • Use data to drive more tangible value: Make it clear why you have data by delivering great experiences.

Brands that get this right have a sustainable path to build trusting relationships with consumers, where the value exchange between experience and data runs in a virtuous cycle. 

There might be heartburn along the way. But when you get there, it’ll be champagne all around. 

Jed Mole is chief marketing officer of Acxiom, Matterkind and Kinesso.

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