The Gartner Cross-Functional Customer Data Survey responses reveal the complexities that digital marketing leaders face with the collection and customer data management. Although their organisations embrace customer data governance and ethics, many worry their approach creates risk for their organisations. 

In fact, more than three-fourths of the organisations surveyed said they enforce customer data policies uniformly across the enterprise, yet 60% of respondents find it difficult to work “cross-functionally to comply with privacy and security standards around customer data.” In addition, 70% said they’d recently sought information about the ethics of using customer data, and nearly half (49%) said their approach to managing customer data puts their organisations at risk. 

Customer data transparency and ethics efforts 

an image showing the GPPR.

New and still-evolving privacy regulations like the European Union’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulation have placed significant restrictions on the collection, storage and use of customer data. And as regulatory momentum relating to customer data increases so too do consumer concerns. 

When it comes to their data, 79% of consumers say they want more control of the personal information they give companies and the way the data is used. What’s more, 53% of consumers say they want companies to be more proactive in educating them about online data privacy.  

Although compliance and regulatory violations are a concern, an existential threat is posed by not honouring these expectations. This causes a loss in momentum to achieve a 360-degree view and deeper personalisation. That’s because 55% of consumers would rather give up relevant and personalised experiences instead of having their digital behaviours tracked

To date, progress has slowed toward the marketing-focused aspiration of customer data transparency. There are gaps in organisations’ abilities to achieve transparency with customers about the kind of data used to market to them and opportunities to take ownership of customer data ethics standards, particularly in AI/ML use. Respondents who are using or piloting AI/ML see the points of connection between the challenges of developing a workable approach to data transparency and ethical oversight of AI/ML. 

In an environment that’s fraught with ethical questions and risk, it’s paramount that digital marketers see the points of connection between the challenges of developing a workable approach to data transparency and ethical oversight of AI/ML. 

Ethical accountability of AI/ML programmes 

Gartner research shows that IT currently dominates ethical oversight of AI/ML programmes. However, managing the complex mix of technology, customer data and personnel required for ethical accountability demands a multidisciplinary team or workgroup to ensure all appropriate stakeholders are involved. That means participation is needed by every business unit that generates and utilises data or is directly affected by the company’s use of customer data

Marketing tends to have greater participation when ethical oversight is managed by a central team or working group. In the Gartner Cross-Functional Customer Data Survey, 36% of respondents noted that marketing is on the team when it comes to ensuring organisational accountability. Only 29% noted marketing’s participation in ensuring supplier and ethical accountability for use of AI/ML whether it was a workgroup or central team managing this activity. 

To seek a bigger role as an advocate for the customer, and advance data ethics and transparency, Gartner recommends digital marketers consider the following: 

  • Define the expectations for cross-functional data governance on behalf of the customer by clearly articulating what use cases should deliver. 
  • Audit platforms and processes developed by third-party vendors for capabilities that enable your organisation to comply with regional, national, and international customer data privacy regulations. 
  • Identify relevant teams in the enterprise, no matter how customer data is governed, to ensure marketing is more directly involved when participating in a cross-functional team. Influence the perspectives of IT or other businesses that lead a single-function approach. 
  • Develop a culture within marketing strategy and data teams to continually focus on modelling used for anonymised groups or segments, not individual behaviours. Avoid approaches that emphasise “more is better” when it comes to customer data.

Digital marketing leaders must take a more comprehensive role in how their companies utilise customer data and leverage advanced technologies such as AI/ML.  As important is the reality that digital marketing leaders – as the voice of the customer – need to ensure they are representing those customers when working with cross-function teams.   

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