Opinions

Don’t Dismiss Data, Study It’s True Value

Data is a vital ingredient in fostering deep connections with customers.

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Data is a vital ingredient in fostering deep connections with customers.

Opinions

Don’t Dismiss Data, Study It’s True Value

Data is a vital ingredient in fostering deep connections with customers.

Share this article

Apple is regarded as arguably the most forward-thinking company on the planet. Over the last 20 years, its products have revolutionised the way we communicate with each other, the way we listen to the music, the way we create art and much more.

In the same period, the use of data has become a key tool in the arsenal of any business looking to improve its products or services. The ability to accurately learn about how a customer is using a product, and how they would like to use it in the future, is more easily accessible than ever before.

You’d think that a business such as Apple would easily recognise the potential for data to propel a transformative company into a new generation.

Imagine my surprise, then, to hear Tim Cook – Apple’s current CEO – dismiss the notion that more customer data leads to superior products as a “bunch of bunk”.

Behind the curve

Frankly, Mr Cook is behind the curve, if he doesn’t see the benefits of using comprehensive and accurate customer information. Apple’s own website includes a list of the types of data it collects from its customers, which it uses to better refine and personalise its services.

Mr Cook may be right that data isn’t the be-all and end-all of a company’s service proposition. Data alone, without talent, creativity or actionable insight, will not create a successful enterprise.

But for those businesses that want to take the next step, and want a deeper understanding of their own customers, it is an indispensable tool—especially for any business operating in an omnichannel environment.

His company’s position on privacy is admirable. Apple’s new privacy policy requiring apps to inform users of how their data will be used will, hopefully, foster transparency and trust between developers and consumers. However, with the recent introduction of GDPR, he is at risk of being cautious to the point of detriment.

GDPR isn’t a reason to be fearful

GDPR means that any data now collected must comply with strict regulations, but that’s not a reason to be fearful—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. If GDPR compliance is in place, there is no doubt that it the comprehensive use of data will enable better commercial decisions.

Take marketing as an example: access to data enables the creation of more personalised campaigns and increasing ROI, as well as improved customer acquisition and engagement.

“Personalisation” may have become something of a marketing buzzword in recent years, but that doesn’t detract from the fact it has become a fundamental pillar on which modern marketing succeeds or fails.

The appetite for more personalisation is widely recognised. In a 2017 survey from Segment, only 22% of shoppers were satisfied with the level of personalisation they currently received. Brands can meet that desire through clever and transparent use of data. Advantages such as these are recognised across the industry, which is why Mr Cook’s statement was so perplexing!

Rather than rubbishing data out of hand, business leaders should be closely studying its true value. This has become more important than ever in Europe—where companies are putting themselves at financial and reputational risk if they don’t have a full understanding of data and its use. Even more so than this, they would also be missing out on its transformational potential.

When used correctly, data holds the key to upgrading user experience, inspiring meaningful loyalty campaigns and fostering deeper connections with customers. That sounds far from a “bunch of bunk” to me.

Mark Roy is chairman of REaD Group.

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Don’t Dismiss Data, Study It’s True Value

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