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Will customers trust you with their data?

Will customers trust you with their data?

It's tempting to think of customer data as the new oil.

Combined with advanced analytics, it offers the promise of a truly personalized marketing that both increases effectiveness and eliminates waste. As the rumored $3.2 billion valuation of Tesco's data analysis business Dunnhumby has shown, retailers (and supermarkets in particular) are a valuable source of this data.

Retailers can take a number of practicial steps to earn customers' trust, but the first step must be data security.
Retailers can take a number of practicial steps to earn customers' trust, but the first step must be data security.

But customer data isn't a natural resource. It's generated by people. And as our connectivity increases, so does our awareness of the data being collected and the erosion of our privacy. With customers increasingly seeking more control over the data they share and with whom, retailers will need to demonstrate to customers that they can be trusted with their data.

There are a number of practical steps that spring to mind:

  1. Make sure you are using the data you already have to improve the customer experience, so it's clear to customers what value they are receiving in return.
  2. Give your customers more control over their data: Let them opt in, for example, rather than have to opt out, and be very clear what they are opting into.
  3. Only collect the data that's essential to deliver the benefit to customers, again making clear why you need it.

However, the initial step has to be data security. With the recent spate of high profile data breaches, customers need to be reassured that you take the protection of their data seriously.

While data security can seem a very technical and legal issue, it's underpinned by a question of mindset. If you view customer data as a commodity, then it's something to be extracted from customers and traded … and customers will be wary.

But if you view access to customer data as a privilege, then it's something to be earned and protected ... and you’ll inspire more confidence among your customers.

What approach does your business take?

Simon Uwins is a former CMO of fresh&easy and Tesco UK, and author of Creating Loyal Brands (2014). Find him online at

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