When buying cinema tickets online, before the transaction is complete you’re presented with four (yes four!) check boxes. Do you want to sign up for the newsletter? Erm, not really. Do you want the chance to win tickets and offers? Not sure, can we talk about this later? Do you agree to share my data? By that point I’ve lost interest. The final button could have asked whether I want to sell the cat and chances are I would have ticked it because I just want my tickets.
Consumers may still be providing the data brands request, but increasingly they’re doing it with a sense of frustrated resignation. This isn’t a value exchange, where a brand gives you something in return for something it wants, it’s the online equivalent of the playground bully who grabs your lunchbox and holds it high above his head until you dance to his tune.
This perceived imbalance in the ‘value exchange’ has seen consumers increasingly tuning out brands they don’t trust, using new adblocking apps or tools such as Google’s preferences on Chrome and Gmail. Adblocking increased globally by 90% between 2015 and 2016, and there are now 419 million adblockers globally on mobile devices alone. Whilst this raises a multitude of issues for marketers, the core concern should surely be that so many consumers have felt driven to opt out from brand communications.
A recent research project we carried out into the state of the value exchange discovered that 86% of consumers are uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with brands selling their personal information to third parties. 80% are similarly uncomfortable about companies using the data they have sourced about them, and 58% did not agree that sharing personal data is a necessary part of a modern economy.
What this showed is that within the next couple of years, brands that want to engage with their customers will need express permission to do so. So now is the ideal time to press reset on the value exchange and remove the smoke and mirrors of opt-ins/sign ups, to take a new view of the worth brands place on consumer permissions and take a reality check on the value brands really add to their customers’ lives.
The new value exchange
One outcome of our recent research was a new model of the value exchange.
It’s a model that takes a fresh approach to collecting and sharing personal data and treats permission as something to be fostered and nurtured. At its heart are some simple principles:
We’ve already highlighted the lack of trust felt by consumers in relation to their data. But when you develop open preference controls you make opt-ins feel personal and relevant. The brands already evolving their preference centres are enabling customers to pick and choose how they want to engage. They’re letting the customer dictate channels, frequency and even content. And they’re asking for data progressively, rather than all up front (hello, my local cinema), and for specific permissions rather than blanket authority.
Our research revealed more than half of respondents felt brand communications were too frequent, and that too often what was promised wasn’t delivered. So we need to set a new baseline, where every communication reflects an attitude of privilege – not a right – to engage, and where every communication has a point.
Brands need to play the ‘right’ role at the ‘right’ moment in consumers’ lives. Take simple attempts at personalisation, for example – the “Hi INSERT NAME HERE” entry standard for tailored engagement. Where respondents have a preference for deals and offers tailored to past purchases, our research shows such attempts will be appreciated by 2 out of 5 respondents. Yet when no such preference exists, these attempts at crude personalisation are unappreciated by 4 out of 5.
Retaining currency, then, means adapting content according to audience composition and individual preferences.
Contact & control
According to our survey, 69% of consumers felt somewhat or not at all in control of their data. With almost half of respondents, the ability to delete information companies hold on them would create a greater feeling of trust.
‘Transactional’ channels (email and in store) were universally liked by consumers as methods of brand contact, whilst ‘personal’ channels (apps, SMA and social media) were generally disliked.
So brands need to find new ways to give consumers control, to reach them via their preferred channels, and to give them the open, honest and transparent facility to disengage.
Engagement & Content
Our research showed that as consumers age, they prefer consistent touchpoints, whilst younger consumers are prepared to experiment with new ones. Older groups have the lowest tolerance of irrelevance. They are the age group most likely to opt out if presented with badly timed or poorly presented communications.
Content, then, should be dynamic and tailored to an individual level. Tone of voice should vary with audience, not stay rigidly static. It should always be relevant and informative – it should always have a reason to be.
It is reasonable that consumers don’t expect something for nothing. But if brands continue to mistake resignation for acceptance, they will find more and more consumers opt out at a time when opting in has never been more essential.
In the quid pro quo of the value exchange, it’s time to give consumers a little more quid for their quo.