Personal data: new customer relationships built on trust



In 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enforced. Since then Internet users have acquired unprecedented control over the management of their personal data online. The collection of information about the individual is now conditional on the collection of their consent. For companies wishing to personalize the online customer experience, this requires a thorough review of their communication and data processing methods. For a trusting relationship to be established between consumers and brands, a new agreement must be found around the ethical management of this strategic information.


Be educational

The personalization of web services is largely based on a central tool: cookies. However, many Internet users have now adopted a reflex consisting in systematically refusing them every time they are offered the opportunity. This attitude is often justified by the laudable intention of protecting their privacy, but it becomes paradoxical when we know that these same consumers are expecting an increasingly fluid and personalized online experience. Finding quickly adapted items, benefiting from personalized services or even advantages linked to their privileged relationship with the brand, all these new requirements can only be fulfilled if Internet users accept to entrust brands with a certain amount of personal information. In order to find a common ground beneficial to both consumers and brands, it is first necessary for the latter to inform their customers precisely as to what their data will be used for.


Clearly defining cookies

If the use of cookies is so widely rejected, it is because it is very poorly understood by the general public. Rejecting all cookies is in fact the same as rejecting all data collection, despite the fact that some of them are useful or even essential, as is the case with first party data. A term that covers all the data collected directly by a brand via its website and its customer relationship management tools during orders or any other online and offline interaction. It is distinct from second party data, data collected and resold by the brand's partners, but also from third party data, which is traded on a very large scale by specialized players with sometimes questionable collection practices. By refusing all cookies indiscriminately, users are simultaneously refusing cookies that are extremely useful for improving their experience and others that are dedicated to less essential functions. In order not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, they could instead adopt a reasoned approach by considering the data they select and agree to transmit as the counterpart of a service provided by the brands.


Beyond regulations, adopting ethical practices

By being better informed about their rights and control over their data, consumers could adopt a cooperative attitude with brands and allow them to improve their services and make their targeting efforts more profitable. But to be balanced, this cooperative relationship must be a two-way street and guarantees must be provided to ensure that the data thus transmitted is processed in a reasoned manner. Beyond regulatory obligations, brands need to adopt an ethical approach by collecting only the data that is truly necessary to optimize the customer experience, thereby abandoning the all-too-common attitude of collecting as much data as possible. These efforts also involve changing the way consent is communicated. Requiring the acceptance of cookies in exchange for items or services, for example, is a divisive practice that places the relationship with the consumer under the sign of blackmail. More subtle and well thought-out ways of managing consent can be designed and are notably proposed by specialized players allowing to obtain all relevant data with the informed consent of consumers.


As the personalization of services and customer experience is now at the heart of many brands' strategy, the collection of personal data is becoming a central issue. To address legitimate privacy concerns, a new deal must be struck with consumers based on more transparent communication and ethical practices. To benefit from cookies, brands must now earn them!