Data. It’s not just about the numbers…

Rachel Aldighieri, MD of the Direct Marketing Association, discusses why the marketing industry must elevate the status of data in order to build trust with consumers and attract the best talent into the industry.

Data is easy to overlook because of its apparent intangibility. Yet, it is data that is the underpinning entity in economies today. Data has become a key input for driving growth, enabling businesses to differentiate themselves and maintain a competitive edge. It is the key to customer engagement, but we need to strike a balance between privacy and innovation.

The EU’s data privacy legislation, the GDPR, seeks to do just that by balancing the customer’s right to privacy with the legitimate interests of companies wanting to serve them better. Ultimately, the GDPR is an opportunity to deliver a better customer experience.

According to the DMA’s ‘Data privacy: What the consumer really thinks’ report, the majority of consumers (78%) believe that businesses benefit disproportionately from data exchange in the UK. Therefore, it is essential that organisations strive to change this perception.

For a more positive customer experience, consumers must trade access to their personal data for relevant opportunities. And businesses in return must be clear about how personal data will be used, respect customers’ communication preferences, and reward them for their engagement and loyalty with incentives that will cement long-term customer relationships.

Consumer trust is central to personal data exchange both to the business looking to prosper, and the customer looking to benefit – businesses must do everything in their power to build and retain it by putting their customers first.

Yet building trust through data exchanges goes far beyond a legal and compliance tick-box exercise. Empathy, creativity, personalisation and authenticity all play a role in building consumer trust. That’s why businesses must perceive the value of data as so much more than a numbers game.

Changing perceptions of data
The data and marketing industry, and indeed academia, must elevate the status of data to ensure it is seen as much more than a set of numbers. Data has many creative applications and requires a range of skills to be used efficiently and effectively. Creative thinking plays as much of a role as data analytics and statistics.

A successful career in data isn’t dependent on having a degree in maths, data or statistics. The data and marketing industry needs people with strong storytelling, insight and creative skills, such as those with a background in fields like psychology and sociology.

To promote diversity and encourage students from a range of backgrounds into the industry, DMA Talent runs a series of Creative Data Academies around the UK. They provide practical learning opportunities for young talent interested in a career in the data and marketing industry. It also provides a vital link between students, education providers and industry that will help forge future professional relationships.

The aim, as the title suggests, is to ensure data and marketing teams put creativity at the forefront of data analysis. We need to view data as a method to gain unique insights into customer mind-sets.

Looking to the future
Organisations that become more customer-centric will build trust with their customers, which is necessary for harnessing the true potential of data in a data-driven economy.
Data and marketing teams will have a leading role to play in this and so, as an industry, we must provide the foundations to attract the best talent to our industry.

Rachel Aldighieri is Managing Director of the Direct Marketing Association

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