The 2019 Digital Trends Report: Data Control Becomes Serious Business

Recent years have put data front-and-cen­tre for brands, cus­tomers and reg­u­la­tors alike. Brands have gained access to more data from a broad­er range of sources than ever, help­ing them to cut through the noise and deliv­er more rel­e­vant expe­ri­ences to their audi­ence. For their part, cus­tomers and reg­u­la­tors appre­ci­ate the val­ue of more per­son­alised ser­vices, but want com­pa­nies to take greater con­trol of their data and man­age it responsibly.

This focus on con­trol is a uni­fy­ing theme of our lat­est Dig­i­tal Trends Report. Near­ly 13,000 respon­dents par­tic­i­pat­ed in our sur­vey, and one pri­or­i­ty stood out for them above all else – to han­dle data in a more uni­fied and trans­par­ent way so they can con­tin­ue improv­ing the cus­tomer experience.

Here’s a snap­shot of this year’s findings:

  1. Brands are tak­ing data back into their hands

Com­pa­nies every­where under­stand the val­ue of data in help­ing them get clos­er to cus­tomers. Indeed, 55% of mar­keters are pri­ori­tis­ing bet­ter use of data for more effec­tive seg­men­ta­tion and tar­get­ing. How­ev­er, busi­ness­es also realise the need to own and man­age this data to dif­fer­en­ti­ate themselves.

A heavy reliance on walled gar­dens – third par­ty adver­tis­ing plat­forms – con­tin­ues to com­pli­cate mat­ters. For brands con­trol and vis­i­bil­i­ty into how their data is being used is huge­ly impor­tant. As a result, 44% of agency respon­dents say a reliance on walled gar­dens is the num­ber one headache for their clients, a trend that is dri­ving busi­ness­es to bring ele­ments of their data man­age­ment in-house.

  1. Pri­va­cy reg­u­la­tion is seen as a pos­i­tive, but there’s work to be done

The aim for brands is to improve their expe­ri­ence across every piece of the cus­tomer jour­ney, and pro­tect­ing con­sumers is a sig­nif­i­cant part of that. That’s why a major­i­ty of respon­dents believe laws such as Europe’s Gen­er­al Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion will have a pos­i­tive impact on their business.

That said, brands under­stand they must adapt and be more con­scious of the way they col­lect and man­age infor­ma­tion. Just under 30% of mar­keters say they are kept up at night by the chal­lenge of per­son­al­is­ing cus­tomer expe­ri­ences with­out vio­lat­ing con­sumer pri­va­cy, pro­vid­ing them with yet anoth­er rea­son to take con­trol of their data.

Con­trol is not enough. In many cas­es, com­pa­nies still work with sys­tems that are no longer fit to man­age data to mod­ern stan­dards. Near­ly two-thirds of com­pa­nies say their mar­ket­ing and CX tech­nolo­gies are frag­ment­ed, with a lack of inte­gra­tion between tools. But progress is on the hori­zon – 63% of IT pro­fes­sion­als have made it a pri­or­i­ty to improve the way they col­lect data and uni­fy it onto a sin­gle platform.

  1. Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence Man­age­ment has become everyone’s job

Look­ing back at the respon­dent base for our Dig­i­tal Trends Report in pre­vi­ous years, it was once almost exclu­sive­ly made up of mar­keters. This is no longer the case. Mar­keters only account for 23% of this year’s respons­es. Join­ing them are cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als (28%), IT experts (10%) and con­tent spe­cial­ists (7%), among oth­ers. This tells us that the cus­tomer jour­ney is no longer seen as the sole domain of cus­tomer-fac­ing teams. It has become a com­pa­ny-wide effort, and as brands make greater use of data to serve cus­tomers they will need to dri­ve even more col­lab­o­ra­tion between to achieve their goals.

  1. CX invest­ment is on the rise

Deliv­er­ing bet­ter cus­tomer expe­ri­ences remains a main pri­or­i­ty for brands, with 50% of respon­dents plan­ning to invest in improv­ing their CX this year. Along with a more robust data foun­da­tion behind the scenes, this invest­ment will help com­pa­nies to draw addi­tion­al val­ue from their data and craft a more com­pelling cus­tomer journey.

Rel­e­vance at speed is seen as a major oppor­tu­ni­ty. One third of brands (33%) believe the abil­i­ty to deliv­er real-time per­son­al­i­sa­tion is one of their most excit­ing prospects for 2019. Equal­ly telling is the fact that 36% of respon­dents have imple­ment­ed Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence (AI) in a bid to per­son­alise their cus­tomer expe­ri­ence more quick­ly and at scale, a 50% jump from last year.

These tech­nolo­gies show enor­mous promise, but brands under­stand that along­side a com­mit­ment to inno­va­tion they also need greater con­trol over the data feed­ing these sys­tems. AI in par­tic­u­lar has put us on the cusp of a new era for dig­i­tal cus­tomer expe­ri­ences, and the results of our research give us a rea­son to be opti­mistic about what the future holds.

Learn more about what the next year has in store. Read our full Dig­i­tal Trends Report here.