How GDPR means a customer-centric use of data

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GDPR is a necessity. It will ensure that customers’ data and privacy are treated with the respect and trust they deserve. How often have we received emails that offer products for men when we are women or worse, featured a product we just bought?

Remember the days when you shopped at your local grocer, they knew on a Saturday you liked bacon and brown bread. They didn’t run down the street after you trying to sell you a variety of quite frankly disconnected random products. They also didn’t shout from the roof tops to tell everyone else that you liked bacon sandwiches. And, they would never try to sell you bacon again after you told them you’d gone Vegan. What they did was make you feel valued and made you feel like they had your best interests at heart.

Too many companies for too long treated their customer data with a laissez-faire approach. Data was stored in random excel spreadsheets. Too many databases are built on assumed consent. Lip service was paid to being customer-centric, but true actions were missing. With GDPR this has to change. 

The companies who are customer-centric have to win. Companies have gone out of business with full product stock, with employees sitting at their desks, with great brands but they ended up with no customers. In the case of Kodak, they saw the change from 35mm film to digital, they developed the technology but lacked the belief that this is what customers wanted. It was only this year we’ve seen the demise of Toys ‘R’ Us, they had the space, but lacked the imagination to create customer experiences to maximise their infrastructure.

And, no customers means no business. Simple. What attracts, keeps and grows customers? Relevancy. With GDPR, not being relevant means losing more than customers, it means losing access to data. Today, you can‘t use the data from lost customers to find new ones. But more, it puts media ROI at risk, it could force you into building generic bland online experiences and if you are using any data to develop new products and services, this too could be at risk.

So, what is relevancy? Relevancy is created when we apply what we know about the customer to offer her an experience she wants. It goes beyond demographics, true understanding, unearths motivations, needs, tensions, fears and hopes. Sometimes companies can focus on the broader needs like Amazon did with the design of the ‘one-click buy’ option. Who would not want a simple and convenient check out process to buy a small ticket item?

How can we create relevancy? By truly capturing the core customer motivation/need. If a brand knows that I am struggling with financial planning, it can design an experience of empowerment and guidance. And notice, I can have that struggle at 32 or 52 years old, demographics can be very misleading in creating relevancy. Once the customer core needs are understood, the experience to be designed around these needs. The ENTIRE experience, not just emails. True customer-centric organisations apply the needs to their products/services, online interactions, post-purchase communications etc. With the data and technology we have available, developing true personal interactions is doable at scale.

Believe it or not it is possible to reflect what we know about the customer at every touchpoint, through every channel. Yes it takes content, business rules, integrated analytics engines, a single-customer view, organisational skill and creativity. But it is possible. It might be a little tedious. It will take time and it is an investment. With the right feedback engine, experiences that enhance people’s lives are created. For when we anticipate what the customer wants and get it right a customer’s live is enhanced.

But ignoring your customer needs and wants, and choosing to deliver mediocre content and offers is no longer a luxury brands have. With GDPR respecting your customers, their time, their choices and their needs is a requirement.

So, ask yourself this, do you want to be in business or out of business? 

About Swantje Drescher

About Swantje Drescher

Swantje’s passion is the customer. Over the past 15 years she has worked across industries focusing on understanding her customers with the sole aim to make their experiences exceptional. She is a firm believer in using the power of data to guide her thoughts but relies on her intuition to infuse the human side into any strategy she creates. Having worked for international companies such as GE and Marriott and consulted for several other Fortune 100 companies, she knows that true customer centricity only happens when the entire company is aligned. For her being customer centric is not just the responsibility of the marketing department, but rather of the entire organisation. She has experience in using customer data and insights to change/develop products, call centre strategy, pricing policy, digital experiences, organisational KPIs, loyalty programmes and advertising. Through her work, organisations have changed their entire culture towards embracing the customer. If it is not about the customer it is not for her.  


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