4 trends that are changing the data conversation

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Image Credit: Shutterstock

Businesses simply cannot operate effectively today without a healthy stream of data to inform real-time decision making. As its value increases, businesses have to navigate a complicated regulatory landscape, privacy concerns and new technologies which thrive on data. For almost every arm of the organization, data is priority number one.

Here are a few of the major data trends to keep an eye on this year:

1. Consumer privacy and GDPR enforcement begins in earnest

When GDPR took hold in May 2018, regulatory officials began realizing the inherent complexity facing organizations as they implemented tools and processes required to address compliance. This may partially explain why there has been only one major enforcement action applied to non-compliant businesses since coming into effect.

The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), however, recently posited that this will become increasingly common, citing an investigation by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). To understand the timeframe between when a violation occurred, when a complaint was issued and when a regulatory action was levied against the organization, the study looked at the 100 most-recent enforcement actions by the ICO in an attempt to determine when we can expect punitive actions by GDPR enforcement officials.

Their conclusion? Drawing an average between the minimum time from violation-to-penalty (six days,) and the maximum (1,064 days,) the IAPP determined a likely window for regulatory actions may be in the range of 338 days, or around February 22, 2019. It is likely, however, that due to the complexity and scale of preparing to meet GDPR requirements for many large enterprises, regional regulators will apply some degree of leniency until the second half of 2019.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

(Image: © Shutterstock)

2. Consumer privacy for “offline” data becomes increasingly paramount (and difficult)

As the volume and variety of consumer data used by organizations continues to expand, many businesses are looking at new ways of bridging the online to offline gap that has persisted for years. Gaining the ability to understand customers’ behaviors as they move from digital to brick-and-mortar channels is fast becoming a bold new frontier for digital marketing strategists.

Take, for example, Google’s recent partnership with MasterCard. Google tracks the location of some of its users in real time, all the time. Because of this, MasterCard realized that it could feed aggregate, encrypted credit card transaction data into Google’s analytics engine, then match that data up with an e-mail database to match offline sales with individual’s profiles and ad click behaviors.

This raises a significant issue of privacy among consumer privacy advocates and governmental agencies looking to protect citizens from the prying eyes of hungry advertisers, as well as identity theft and fraud. New regulations following on the heels of GDPR, including the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), take a hard line on the rules around collecting and monetizing customer data, and promises heavy penalties for businesses not in compliance.

While the march toward always-on, real-time, personally contextual marketing will continue, we see organizations taking a second (or third and fourth) look at their privacy and security postures in order to avoid painful legal battles, punitive damages dished out by regulators, and tarnished brand reputation. This means businesses must first come to grips with all aspects of how they capture, store, manage and distribute consumers’ personal data. But, ultimately, it also demands building more customer-centric long-term strategies, based on trust, that always take consumers’ privacy and security into account.

3. The front and back offices will continue to converge

Over the last several years, organizations have invested heavily in centralizing their customer data across properties and front office systems in order to leverage the data for better serving customers and for privacy-related reasons.

Expect this to continue, as we see organizations expand their digital strategies to capture end-to-end customer related data. From the first customer interaction with the brand online or offline, through the interaction with the customer – be it a purchase of a product, service, or subscription – to customer support and service, and back to fulfillment, invoicing and so on.

For example, enabling a complete view of the customer – from purchase in an e-commerce system, to a nurture flow in a CRM application, to a contract in the legal office, to an invoice in the ERP system – helps streamline these commonly recurring transactional business processes. It also gives better insight to the sales team because it now has improved visibility to expiring contracts and can therefore plan its pipeline much more efficiently.

Image Credit: iStockPhoto

Image Credit: iStockPhoto

(Image: © Image Credit: Devrimb / iStockPhoto)

4. The role of artificial intelligence in defining the customer experience will skyrocket

Built on the foundation of data, artificial intelligence and machine learning have seen a meteoric rise as business performance differentiators. For example, marketers are leveraging these technologies to offer more relevant product recommendations and better identify the most effective channels to communicate with individual prospects and customers.

But this only scratches the surface. Organizations will tap these technologies to directly impact the customer experience in real time. Some avant-guard companies are already exploring such capabilities. Spotify already uses AI to generate custom playlists every week based on a listener’s past history and likes, and on what others with similar tastes have listened to and liked.

As companies achieve more of a 360-degree view of the customer and address their technology infrastructure to better integrate with advanced analytics on a large scale, AI-supported customer experiences will spread like wildfire. Everything from the web pages generated by a content management system to the timing of account registration offers will be supported by intelligent decision-making. In turn, more consumers will have trusted, responsive experiences with brands, which will strengthen loyalty and satisfaction.

The role of transparency

A common thread through the above trends, one that continues to shape the data conversation, is the importance of transparency. As awareness grows, brands and organizations have the responsibility to demonstrate in the clearest of terms how data is fueling value for customers and stakeholders alike setting the benchmark for 2019, and the years to come.

Ben Jackson, General Manager of SAP Customer Data Cloud