TechBytes with Chris Warnock, Content Analyst at GetApp (now part of Gartner)
Could you tell us about your role and the industry/technology you cover at GetApp?
How have consumer attitudes towards personal data shifted in the last few years?
Consumer concerns around privacy and personal data are on the rise. A recent GetApp survey found 91% of U.S. consumers feel ads know too much personal information about them. Additionally, many people seek to limit their exposure to advertising and the information they share with advertisers: 52% of consumers report using an ad blocker while online and 29% say they are unwilling to share any personal information with marketers in exchange for more relevant offers. Beyond this, recent breaches from major tech firms have done little to reassure consumers that their data is in good hands.
How effective is personalized marketing?
How effective personalized marketing is, depends on how it’s used and the business using it. The same GetApp survey found that 62% of consumers have opened an email in the past year simply because their name was in the subject line, suggesting that personalization works even in its most basic form. That said, companies have to consider the demographics and specific preferences of their customer base. Generally speaking, consumers are data pragmatists and will trade their personal data for the right benefits or under the right circumstances.
When it comes to collecting data for personalization (or any reason really), it’s best to offer a clear incentive (e.g., content, information, or discounts) in exchange for people’s time and personal information. Our full report on Marketing Personalization offers specific details about the value consumers get from personalized marketing, as well as what pieces of personal information people are most willing to share.
What is clean data, and how can companies approach it?
Clean data is data that has been purified for use in analytics. This means dedicating company resources to modifying, amending, merging and removing corrupt, incomplete, outdated or inaccurate data so that it can be used effectively for analysis. Clean data is incredibly important because of the outsized role data quality plays in a company’s ability to thrive in an increasingly data-driven world. Ideally, Artificial Intelligence will soon be sophisticated enough to handle the heavy lifting currently burdening Data Analysts and Scientists. Until that happens, keeping the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data humans create each day clean will remain a time consuming, mission critical priority for most businesses.
Any process for data cleansing should fit into a larger data governance strategy. At a company level, data governance involves identifying the people, processes and tools that will help with managing and enforcing rules or best practices to keep data assets secure, clean and useful.
What is cognitive bias and how can marketers best use it to benefit their own business and the consumer experience?
Cognitive bias is an umbrella term for faulty patterns of thinking that lead individuals to make irrational decisions. For example, the common idiom “jump on the bandwagon” is a reference to the bandwagon effect, a form of cognitive bias where people adopt or do something simply because others are doing it. We can observe the bandwagon effect in trends spanning fashion, music, diets, elections, and more.
Ultimately, Marketing is about not just understanding your audience, but resonating with them on a memorable or personal level. Accomplishing this goal is easier if the mechanisms behind human thinking are included in Marketing tactics and strategy. Marketers can use cognitive bias to better understand consumer psychology and decision making, as well as build a positive end-to-end customer experience.
Where do you think the happy medium lies between using cognitive bias to make informed Marketing decisions and being unethical?
Marketers should use cognitive bias to better understand how consumers think, but not to trick them. Throughout any buyer journey, a number of cognitive factors are at play. For example, at the start customers may face over choice, a cognitive process where people become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice available. Developing ways to make people feel confident in a purchasing decision helps them overcome this.
At the end of the buyer journey, post-purchase bias may cause customers to remember the positive attributes of what they chose, and the negative attributes of things they didn’t choose. This presents another opportunity for marketers to incorporate how people think into their Marketing strategy, and reinforce positive sentiment toward a recently purchased product or service. The difference between helpful or strategic and deceptive often comes down to execution.
How have businesses had to adapt their use of cognitive bias and dark patterns in the wake of GDPR and other privacy regulations?
Dark patterns, or tactics in user experience design that encourage users to take a specific action, remain omnipresent online. It is unlikely these tactics will be legislated out of existence overnight, but as awareness of their existence rises companies that continue to employ these manipulative tricks risk damaging customer relationships.
Maturing regulations emerging in the wake of GDPR have certainly paved the way for politicians and consumers to move the needle on a variety of data privacy issues. Some lawmakers are beginning to criticize the methods tech giants like Facebook use to collect user data and convince people to take specific actions. Specifically, The Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction Act (or the DETOUR Act) is bipartisan legislation proposed in April by senators from Washington and Nebraska. The bill aims to prohibit online platforms from using deceptive techniques to trick users into handing over their personal information, as well as manipulate them into taking actions they would otherwise not take. Additionally, the proposed legislation focuses on informed consent, or permission granted in the knowledge of possible consequences.
Do you expect any industries to be affected more than others?
Social media, online retail, and digital advertising are interconnected industries likely to face the most scrutiny over use of manipulative Marketing tactics or dark patterns. Any regulation that curtails the use of dark patterns will have a far reaching effect across digital commerce. A study from researchers at Princeton University and the University of Chicago examined 53,000 pages from 11,000 shopping websites and found that 11% of them used dark patterns.
How do you expect changes to privacy regulations to affect consumers and their online experience?
With no single law protecting consumer data privacy in America, marketers face increasingly fragmented privacy regulations across states. In the absence of a federal law regulating consumer data privacy, fragmentation is likely to worsen. In the long term, privacy regulations will give consumers more control over how their information is collected, used, and sold. Data consent isn’t a binary “yes” or “no,” so allowing consumers to select preferences for data collection will be a key component of marketing personalization and the online user experience moving forward.
What do you see the future of personalized marketing looking like?
In 10 years, Marketing personalization for the average person will be more sophisticated than ever. However, legislation will force business to take a more tactical approach to how customer data is collected and used. In the past, companies have sought to collect more data endlessly and, in some instances, purposelessly. Moving forward, businesses should avoid asking customers for information that they don’t have a specific use for. Not only do shorter forms have higher conversion rates, but limiting the amount of customer data a business houses will mitigate exposure if a data breach occurs.
As consumers wise up to the perils of unregulated Marketing practices and non-existent data privacy protections, businesses will have to align their marketing strategies with public opinion—or risk losing customers.
Chris Warnock is a Content Analyst at GetApp (now part of Gartner). A background in research and marketing, including 3+ years working abroad in China, gives Chris a unique perspective on business operations and problem solving. An environment that consistently presents new challenges and demands creative and critical thinking is my ideal workplace.