Chris Bower

Chief Executive Officer, dentsu Solutions

It’s not a secret that data is valuable. Consumers are more and more aware of the power of the information about their habits, preferences, likes and dislikes is for a brand. They know that their data is worth something.

No brands or category are immune to this. For automotive brands, the power of that data and how it is used can make or break a purchase.

Imagine you’re buying a car. Maybe you know the brand you want, maybe even the model, but it’s a big purchase and there are a lot of options, so you go into the dealership to check it out.  

The dealership is bright and clean. There's free coffee and maybe biscuits. The cars are beautifully presented with helpful information about features and performance.  It's a well-engineered customer experience, designed to make everybody feel comfortable and supported. 

The dealer is an empathetic, well-trained sales associate ready to help guide you through the journey.  She knows the details of the cars, but more importantly, she knows how to pick up on the subtle cues you are giving off.  Maybe she sees this is your first car, or your family is growing.  If she's good, she's picking up on your price sensitivities and the features and benefits you value. Essentially, she’s analysing the data you share with her to help steer you to the car that's right for you. 

There is tremendous value to you both in this data exchange.  

Now imagine buying a car online. 

The platform you’re searching on has invested in human-centred design and there is a slick experience with beautiful images of the car.  Maybe you can get even more information through videos, testimonials, and impactful stats on its performance.  But replicating that empathetic dealer experience is a different challenge.

Winning is all about solving for the customer experience using human-centred design, while augmenting it with the responsible use of data to create a fully personalised, empathetic feeling. An experience that keeps bringing you back for more than the biscuits. Without this, you’re the brand that falls off the consideration list.

The data value exchange

Brands have a responsibility to set up a system that demonstrates value to a consumer in exchange for their data and establishing that requires clarity on five key elements: Purpose, Benefits, Trust, Control and Sensitivity.

1. Purpose: Customers need to understand why their data is being collected and how it will be used. While this may seem like a simple to do, most companies do it badly. Our research shows that 70% of Aussies don’t know why their data is being collected and what is being done with it. The solution here is simple: transparency.

2. Benefits: Customers expect to receive benefits in exchange for sharing their data. It used to be that collecting data was seen as a necessary evil, or part of the process.  But over the past three years, we’ve seen a marked increase from 45% to 63% of people who expect that the data they share should primarily benefit the customer, not the companies collecting it.

3. Trust: Brands must protect customers’ data and avoid misusing it by spamming customers with ads. More than half (64%) of survey respondents cited misuse of personal data as one of the main causes of distrust in companies today. 

4. Control: Customers expect the ability to refuse data sharing and the rights to allocate it to brands that are chosen partners, as well as the ability to get their data back. 78% of people feel organisations need to exhibit higher standards and give them more control, and regulation is not the only solution.

5. Sensitivity: Brands should avoid overusing customer data in insensitive ways and recognise the importance of playing in the margins.

Building the data exchange described above involves a lot of work, responsibility, and some technical and marketing expense to bring it to life. 

So, what’s in it for automotives?

There are two fundamental benefits to getting the data exchange equation right.

In this era of data decentralisation, brands won’t be relying as much on social media communities such as Facebook or YouTube because consumers will control their data and decide which brands they will be sharing it with.

Auto brands will need to build their own communities, attracting customers with outstanding products, content, experiences, and partnerships. They will have to build direct relationships with customers within their own ecosystems, based on trust, in which consumers willingly share information with because they can see the value exchange.

The auto brands that lean into this will win.

Instead of hiding data collection behind Terms & Conditions or nested browser settings, brands who actively promote personalisation and an explicit data value exchange as a key brand differentiator will come out on top. 

This is your moment to own this.

By Chris Bower, CEO dentsu Solutions ANZ & Christine McKinnon, Head of Intelligence, dentsu ANZ

This article originally appeared on AdNews.