Lindsay McEwanLindsay McEwanMay 24, 2019


Mastering the balance between exceptional Customer Experience and data protection legislation isn’t easy, and many businesses are unintentionally teetering on the edge.

Ironically, in a bid to meet customer needs with hassle-free digital services, some companies have missed the regulation mark with 200,000 reported GDPR breaches and fines totalling €55.9 million, so far. Walking the line between compliance and delivering great customer experience takes skill – brands must identify and stick to the perfect middle pathway; starting with a clear understanding of the factors that can send them off course. 

Top-heavy convenience impedes privacy

Efficient services are vital in the digital age; customers want experiences to be fast, simple, and streamlined. In fact, 26 percent will abandon online checkouts if processes are too complex. But companies focusing solely on convenience are putting themselves at risk of not only breaching regulation but also losing the trust of their customers.

While convenience matters, it shouldn’t surpass compliance and choice. A recent investigation by brand comparison site Which?, found a number of potential regulation breaches in e-receipts. By providing opted-in paperless proof of purchase, brands sought to improve customer experience, providing an instant buying record that enables easier returns or exchanges. However, the inclusion of unwanted marketing messaging in the emailed receipts, for which retailers had not received consent, meant many were breaking the rules of GDPR law and seemingly ignoring customer preferences.

Impenetrable defences dissuade customers

Following laws such as the GDPR is non-negotiable if firms want to avoid sizeable fines and reputational damage. The companies that embrace regulations will reap the rewards by demonstrating their dedication to protecting consumers’ data and will have a much greater chance of building lasting confidence and relationships: 84 percent of consumers cite good data security as a central factor in spending decisions. However, the introduction of safety measures and privacy protection can sometimes become obstructive itself.

As noted by Jeff Bell, Forbes Technology Council member and CEO of LegalShield, “excessive regulation leading to poor customer service” is high on the list of potential unintended GDPR consequences. For example, trying to mitigate all consent issues by installing a different opt-in widget for every single cookie is more likely to leave consumers feeling exasperated than empowered. Not to mention causing disruption to their journey that could result in negative brand perception.

And it almost goes without saying that extreme action such as blocking EU site visitors is a one-way ticket to loss of audience; the Chicago Tribune, for instance, has blocked all European readers from seeing its content since the GDPR arrived, an approach that can be seen used across a variety of US publishers and ecommerce sites.

Usability is the key lesson here. Companies must aim to build robust data defences that effectively mitigate privacy risks, without making it impossible for customers to get through.

Equilibrium: the answer to the ultimate Customer Experience

The value of CX is self-evident; amid increasingly tough competition and rising acquisition costs, success belongs to those who forge the deepest personal connections. But recognition of the most critical element remains limited: maintaining a consistently even balance. If businesses want to create memorable journeys and impactful interactions that fuel positive results, they need to provide the right blend of speed, simplicity, and data security.

Of course, the ideal mix varies for each brand. Among the best examples of current leaders is IKEA; despite famously poking fun at the GDPR, the company still sent out opt-in emails to ensure sustained contact with existing customers, and continuously uses data well. Drawing on fully consented membership insights, it highlights genuinely relevant discounts and provides unexpected yet impactful bonuses, such as in-store café freebies.

What every organisation must remember is that while convenience might attract customers, measured compliance is what makes them stay. So, there should always be two core components in place: clear and efficient data options that are easy to use, and holistic insight management. Only by unifying the information customers share can companies gain the full 360-degree view needed to define each individual’s ideal experience and deliver it.

Lindsay McEwanLindsay McEwanJuly 16, 2018


Journeys aren’t about one moment.

Take, for instance, holidays. While for most of us, fun starts after check in, the holiday begins long before. From the first flight or hotel search, travellers set off on a path to the main event that includes many interactions. Each of which provides an opportunity for brands to offer relevant, engaging experiences.

The issue, however, is that delivering such experiences requires deep understanding of the route travellers take. It might be simple enough to define where bookings are made – research shows 85 percent are confirmed on PC or laptop, 23 percent via tablet, and 20 percent using smartphones – but to maximise the impact of messaging at every stage of individual journeys, brands need a holistic and consistent picture of activity.

So, how can this view be obtained? In short, brand marketers must follow the data trail customers leave as they traverse multiple channels. The long answer involves a closer look at current challenges and how data can be converted into actionable insight, while respecting consumer privacy.

Divided insight: The key performance block

With 8 billion connected devices in use, data generated by digital consumers – be that from browsing rental sites like Airbnb or reading reviews via the Tripadvisor app – is plentiful. And the potential of this insight to fuel personalised experiences hasn’t escaped marketers; nine in ten agree data management is a key priority.

But using it isn’t proving easy. According to recent research by Royal Mail Data Services, many brands are grappling with data legislation and assessment difficulties. One-quarter named General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance as their biggest concern and 28 percent felt customer data analysis was the greatest performance issue.

Although not the only cause, the central driver of both challenges is disjointed data. More specifically: the common tendency to gather, process, and store insight from different channels and devices separately.

By persisting with this siloed approach, marketers are not only making GDPR adherence harder – attempting to check the accuracy, privacy protection, and consent levels of fragmented data sets is no mean feat – but also inhibiting campaign effectiveness.

With crucial information about consumer interactions held in isolation, it is near impossible to obtain a complete, joined-up view of individuals or their journeys. And this, in turn, means messaging is likely to be irrelevant and even irritating. For example, say a tennis fan searches for hotels in Wimbledon on their smartphone but later books with a laptop.

Without knowledge of this vital link, the hotel brand may attempt to reignite the interest of this ‘potential’ customer (who has already booked) with retargeted offers, unaware they are causing frustration.

Evidently, better data organisation is critical if marketers want to create experiences that drive customer happiness. And this means they must adopt methods that swap silos for synchronisation: it’s time to embrace data orchestration.

What is data orchestration?

Put simply, data orchestration is a term applied to the procedure of consolidating information from numerous sources. The result of which is a real-time view of individuals that spans activity across multiple devices and channels.

How it works is more complex. The key factor to note is that success depends on covering all core phases of the data lifecycle: collection, transformation, enrichment, audience association, and ownership. So, the technologies involved in the process ideally need to follow a set adoption path, which includes several essential stages.

First, it’s important to start by amassing data from every source, such as travel agents to sites, chat bots, and apps. Then information must be re-ordered, which means cleansing, merging, and translating data into a single language and layer. At the same time, stage three will already be in play; whereby stitching of cross-channel data begins to build a comprehensive picture of individuals and fresh insight – such as smartphone interactions – is immediately integrated.

How does it help brands?

When these stages are complete, marketers should have complete real-time consumer profiles that allow them to precisely personalise messages. And, because profiles are continually updated, they can be sure that messages strike the right chord however unique journeys twist and turn.

Furthermore, bridging silos and bringing data together can also pave the way to GDPR compliance. With all data relating to specific individuals amalgamated in one pool, marketers can quickly evaluate security measures – and implement additional protection if needed – and whether individuals have given consent, and that’s not to mention the reassurance that data is up-to-date and access request can be rapidly fulfilled.

Most marketers are already aware that data is the key to providing extraordinary customer experiences and building lasting relationships. But understanding of how it should be used is still limited. To make the most of the information produced by smart devices, marketers must recognise that each screen and channel is an integral element of an individual’s journey. Consequently, messages will only achieve great results if they are based on a comprehensive understanding of individuals and their activity as a whole.

Much like their holidays, today’s consumers expect every experience to be the journey of a lifetime.

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