An Eye Opener into Big Data

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Last Tuesday I attended CIM’s latest digital briefing at PWC’s Google Hive. After breakfast and coffee (prepared to perfection by an IPAD!) I sat down, intrigued to discover how businesses across NI are not only using but safeguarding big data.

I felt quietly confident that most in the room (which was filled with some of Northern Ireland’s most experienced marketers) would be on top of the data protection game – that is until Steve Woolley, CIM’s Head of External Affairs and Content, began to speak and enlighten us with some alarming statistics. Out came my notebook as I gaped at the stats on the screen …

Only 36% of marketers say their organisation is transparent about how it collects data

This is actually quite frightening. Not only are businesses leaving themselves open to allegations but they’re also at risk of damaging their brand reputation. Why would a customer buy from you if they don’t trust you?

51% of consumers had received communications from an organisation they had never dealt with

It’s no longer possible to follow the ‘ask for forgiveness rather than permission’ rule. In May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force. We’re unlikely to have left the EU by that stage – If you don’t have proper procedures in place for dealing with customers’ data now’s the time to act.

81% of marketers share data across departments within their company

It only takes one customer to make a complaint about why they have been contacted by you and how your team procured their details. If you don’t have a sufficient answer there’s grounds for complaint. Under the ICO’s guidelines consumers have the “right to claim compensation for damages caused by a breach of the Act.”

41% of marketers don’t understand the laws

An even crazier stat is just 17% actually wanted more training. As marketers we’re keen to jump into our customers’ data, to pick out nitty-gritty insights that we are determined will allow us to capture consumers in those intent-driven ‘micro-moments’. However in all the excitement of planning our next big campaign, do we actually pause to think if these customers want to be targeted in this way or if they’ve even given you permission to do so?

Act now to protect customers’ data

If you’re thinking this blog post reads like a numbers game, you’d be right. But hopefully they’re numbers that make you sit up and think.

Plan in time to look at where you’re sourcing customer data from and if relevant permissions have been sought. In campaign communications – be clear, “67% of consumers would be happy to provide more personal data if organisations were transparent about how they plan to use it”.

Our top 4 tips

  1. Go back to basics – Update your privacy policy, terms and conditions and data protection statement and ensure these are clearly visible on your website. Avoid jargon and speak like a human not a lawyer.
  2. Share your amazing benefits – Sharing data is a great thing for your business so tell customers why. Will they receive exclusive discounts on their birthday? Will they be sent tailored news for their local region? Whatever the benefits, shout about them!
  3. Educate – Make it your mission to not only educate yourself but also your customers about their rights. Build trust by reminding them they have the right to access the information you store on them at any time. Educate staff too – attend relevant training workshops such as CIM’s short courses and routinely keep an eye on the ICO website.
  4. Give options – When capturing data give your customers choices. How would they like to be contacted, how often are they happy to hear from you and what products are they interested in. This also ensures you’re not capturing lots of data you don’t need. As Michael King, Associate Solicitor from Cleaver Fulton Rankin, put it, “If you’re a hotel you wouldn’t ask for a guest’s shoe size when they check in.”


Statistics sourced from CIM research undertaken between 29 July and 10 August 2016 with 2,245 consumers and 500 marketers surveyed.

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