Curated vs behavioural profiling: Reassuring consumers on algorithm accuracy and ethics

Steve Carrod, co-founder and MD, DMPG, explains how digital marketers can become champions of consumer rights.

Scrabble tiles spelling out 'who are you?'
Consumer demand for personalised digital experiences is higher than ever. Over two- thirds ( 69% ) of consumers will move away from brands that target their communications badly, by unfollowing them on social media or cancelling subscriptions.
The risk that non-personalised experiences present to brand revenues means digital marketers rely on data to create tailored and effective digital journeys.

However, the digital marketing industry is intensifying its focus on the ethical use of consumer data. Although customers want personalisation – and according to research , are willing to exchange their information for it – they have little trust in brands to deliver this while still respecting their data privacy.

As a result, almost all ( 99% ) of UK marketers claim balancing the need for personalisation with privacy-conscious data practices is important to their business.

So, how can digital marketers resolve this ‘privacy paradox’ and – genuinely – market themselves as champions of consumer rights? Through making data processes more transparent, adopting ethical profiling methods, and clarifying the value of personalisation, marketers can successfully rebuild trust with their customer bases.

Here are the best steps toward achieving this:

Reassure customers with transparency

Since the announcement of the EU’s GDPR, regulators across the globe have begun issuing and updating laws around user data, which require online companies to disclose how they handle consumers’ information. Businesses now own the responsibility of aligning their data practices with privacy regulations, as well as being transparent with what information they gather about their customers.

The global nature of the digital landscape, however, has led to confusion when regional regulations differ from each other. For instance, the privacy guidelines from the UK’s ICO, the EU’s GDPR, and the US’s CCPA all vary on the finer details of data collection, meaning that businesses have struggled to deliver a comprehensive, fully compliant approach to online privacy in response.

Ultimately, businesses need to carefully assess how much data they truly need to share with third parties, as well as offer compelling reasons for users to opt-in to this.

By placing consumers at the forefront of their privacy policies and data practices, online brands will ensure customers feel their choices are respected. This means demonstrating explicitly what user data is needed for – in a clear, engaging way – and rebuilding customer relationships. While regulatory compliance is critical, brands that approach the challenge of transparency from a customer-centric perspective will generate greater trust in their consumers.

Adopt more ethical profiling​

One key part of consumer-centric transparency is addressing misconceptions around brands’ intentions for data collection. The dangers of presumptive, curated profiling can make media headlines , leading to misguided beliefs that brands are targeting consumers based on assumptions around personal identity. In truth, crafting personalisation in this way misses the mark – from both an ethical standpoint and a
marketing one – which is exactly what personalisation tools seek to avoid.

Brands that personalise the consumer experience based on behavioural profiling capture greater consumer engagement. In a digital landscape dominated by big tech, smaller businesses rely on behavioural tracking data to gain a competitive edge when developing relevant, useful personalisation. Human elements such as age, race, and gender are rarely taken into account by the algorithms that enable behavioural profiling. Data from previous purchases, for instance, can be used instead to more
accurately tailor each interaction consumers have with a brand.

Even if those human elements are, the algorithm has no concept of discrimination or even an opinion – it is simply using data and behavioural attributes to support the delivery of the most relevant experience for the consumer. By making customers more aware of how a business’s data practices enhance the digital experience, marketers can rebuild trust while maintaining targeting capabilities.

To truly regain consumer confidence, digital marketers must minimise the amount of data they use while ensuring personalisation is highly impactful. If users can clearly see the benefit they receive from the data they are willing to share, brands can rebalance the value exchange and significantly improve the digital experience.

Get personalisation right

Getting personalisation correct under these circumstances may sound like a tall order, but AI-powered technologies can help marketers prioritise quality over quantity when it comes to data collection.

For example, onboarding a CDP can streamline data gathering while allowing a business to operate in full compliance with current privacy laws. Through consolidating data from disparate sources, CDPs offer a secure tool for understanding consumer behaviours. When leveraged for digital experience optimisation, brands can utilise this tool to tap quality data and transform it into an effective, personalised omni-channel journey. Marketers that adopt this approach will see consumers not
only become more engaged with the digital experience, but more comfortable sharing data as well.

Winning back consumer trust is a tough challenge, but far from an insurmountable one. Digital marketers can ensure their profiling methods are ethical, lift the curtain on why user information is collected, and clearly demonstrate how their data practices benefit customers. With the right technologies onboard, brands can meet the demands for personalised experiences while respecting user privacy and restoring consumer confidence.​

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