Digital Trust: 5 Questions With Accenture’s Robert Wollan

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Accenture Digital Trust

The 13th annual Accenture Strategy Global Consumer Pulse Research explores the attitudes and expectations of more than 25,000 consumers worldwide (including 2,000 U.S. consumers) about intuitive, tech-driven brand experiences.

The study found ‘a significant digital trust deficit that must be addressed before true customization can be delivered.’ Poor personalization and lack of trust cost U.S. organizations $756 billion last year.

According to the U.S. portion of the research, for example, Americans want to ‘have their cake and eat it too’ when it comes to relevant, personalized shopping experiences, but 44% of respondents in Accenture’s research said they are frustrated when companies don’t meet their expectations.

They are also hesitant to divulge personal information, with 49% concerned about privacy as companies increasingly use AI and machine learning to better discern their needs. What’s more, 41% dropped companies in the past year due to poor personalization and lack of trust.

Accenture digital trust US graphic 2017

Accenture sees hyper-relevance as the next wave of growth for companies operating in consumer industries, but it cannot be achieved without engendering digital trust. To pivot to hyper-relevance, companies should consider:

Giving customers full control over their data – As customers demand greater control over how companies use their personal information, organizations must become more transparent. Customers must be given full access to, and control over, their data which will demonstrate responsible stewardship and ethics. Furthermore, they must ensure the appropriate safeguards are in place to protect it.
Creating new customer value – Companies that distinguish themselves with hyper-relevant experiences look beyond the traditional customer journey. They prioritize areas where they can dynamically deliver something that customers value, at the right moment every time.
Investing in precise insights – Hyper-relevant companies invest in predictive analytics, collaborate with an ecosystem of partners to capture real-time customer insight, and mine data in new ways to understand their specific needs.

Robert Wollan - AccentureFor more insights we spoke with Robert Wollan, Senior Managing Director and Advanced Customer Strategy global lead at Accenture Strategy.

Robert, people are hesitant to share personal information but love the rewards—so where is the line in the sand being drawn? 

Consumers will share their personal information with brands and organizations if they get something they value back in return. This ‘value exchange’ customer mindset is new for companies that have traditionally just expected to gain customer data they need or want.

Every customer expects a different type of value—from tailored offers on the brands they love around their birthday, a special invitation to a private event where the latest fashion lines are unveiled, or a yoga class hosted by their favorite sportswear brand or blogger. Consumers are mostly happy to participate as long as the return is uniquely tailored to their preferences.

Companies that gain consumer trust will be well-placed to deliver the hyper-relevant experiences customers demand, and gain even deeper insights into their world, which will help them create new value and maintain brand relevance.

How important is personalization, let alone hyper-personalization, in evolving the “traditional” customer journey?

Customers have raised expectations, so traditional personalization is no longer a differentiator. The tailored direct marketing mailer will not create mindshare or make customers love you. In fact, with more technology companies using artificial intelligence to weed out irrelevant content, it might not even reach customers altogether.

It’s the added value companies deliver that is key, and the only way to ensure it’s relevant to customers is by knowing them on a deeper level. And that comes down to trust.

Connected technologies will instigate an era of ‘hyper-relevance’ where companies will use reams of customer data, enhanced by location- and context-specific data collected from smart devices, to deliver uniquely tailored and highly customized experiences.

As technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital assistants become more sophisticated and mainstream, companies are creating new touch points, offerings and services that intelligently anticipate and flex to their customer’s precise needs, offering a level of hyper-relevance not experienced before.

Raised customer expectations will force companies operating in consumer industries to rethink how they interact with, serve and sell to their customers who are demanding smarter, relevant experiences.

What do customers define as a better brand experience?

Customers increasingly want more intuitive, technology-driven brand experiences. They want companies to instinctively know what they like and don’t like, and customize experiences based on their personal preferences. These experiences also stand out when companies actually bring out the personality of the brand that brought the customer to the brand in the first place.

Given that many consumers in your survey found predictive marketing ‘creepy,’ how should brands address that?

U.S. consumers are still adapting to ‘predictive’ or ‘precision’ marketing. Our data found that 40% of U.S. consumers say it can feel creepy when technology starts to correctly interpret and anticipate their needs.

That said, over a third (36%) already use digital assistants today, and many more are buying into connected home technologies. Some of the biggest deals during this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday extravaganza were on smart home technology. Social media was ablaze with price comparisons for the latest connected speakers, such as Amazon Echo, Sonos One and Google Home and Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats and lights from the likes of Hive and Philips Hue. Some of this can be attributed to growing usage, but the same could be said when caller ID was first leveraged—now it is actually expected.

While some may consider these connected technologies as something of a novelty, the impact on customer behavior is huge. The beauty of AI technology is the more it’s used, the more it learns and evolves. It becomes intuitive, almost human-like. It’s like having a personal assistant on demand, and it sets a precedent.

People are getting frustrated with brands when it comes to customer experience and digital trust; what’s the answer?

Customers should get the experiences they demand and not have to worry about personal data privacy and security. Companies more than ever have to continuously earn the trust of their customers to make them feel confident that their personal information is safe and protected.

Digital trust will become increasingly challenging for them to achieve as they look to capture new categories of customer data, such as biometric, geo-location and even genomic data, in their drive for greater relevance.

Customer concerns will inevitably rise, so it’s critical that companies have strong data security and privacy measures in place, they give customers full control over their data, and are transparent with how they use it. Customers must be given full access to, and control over, their data which will demonstrate responsible stewardship and ethics. Furthermore, they must ensure the appropriate safeguards are in place to protect it.


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