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Advancements in data integration technology mean brands have an unprecedented ability to better connect with consumers. However, it’s no surprise that consumers are prioritizing brands that can engage in a timely, relevant and meaningful way — while respecting their privacy preferences. About 75% of consumers are not comfortable buying from a brand with poor personal data ethics, according to a recent report.

Savvier and more informed about their privacy rights than ever before, consumers want to know that their data is protected. At the same time, they are willing to opt-in for a better buying experience. This is the privacy paradox, a term coined by Gartner, referring to the constant flux of consumers’ concerns over privacy and their actual online behavior and desires.

Transparency around how customers’ data will be used creates a stronger foundation of trust, and will ultimately allow brands to have a more competitive edge now and in the future, according to the recent In Data We Trust e-guide. With the sunsetting of third-party cookies on the horizon, consent will be the determinant of how brands will form future relationships with customers.

Brands should start by defining a first-party data collection and management strategy that honors privacy preferences while maintaining the highest-quality insights. Using only high-quality data is essential for creating rich, real-time portraits of your customers for optimal activation. Brands that can best integrate their customer data into an accurate, personalized and trusted view of the customer while acknowledging consent across all channels will ensure better customer experiences that foster trust from the very beginning.

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Out with third-party cookies, in with first-party data

Uncertainty about how a brand acquired your information can certainly raise eyebrows. The phasing out of third-party cookies presents a major opportunity for companies to switch to a first-party data strategy now and gain opt-ins from the get-go.

First-party data comes directly from your customers, which means it’s not only more accurate but more trusted. To make this switch, companies may need to transform their data collection processes and implement or update existing consent tools. At the same time, they’ll need to ensure that their first-party solutions are compliant with broader data privacy regulations.

With data unified into one comprehensive view of the customer and available to other systems, brands will have a consent management solution that reflects the entire customer relationship and enables compliant, personalized activation across channels.

More data isn’t better data

Customers’ expectations of a personalized experience have pushed brands to integrate more complex data into their customer experience channels. With an influx of data, however, comes the challenge of refining and optimizing it for the best use.

Having a clean, accurate and high-quality data foundation is critical for creating conversions and achieving ROI. Your focus should be on bringing in only the right data to drive customer experience. You don’t need all the data, only the information that will be useful to your end goals.

Outlining what you need (including from a data governance perspective) will help create clear customer profiles that you can target with activations and experiences that will make your audience stick around.

The key to engagement starts with the ability to act. If customers update their privacy preferences, brands should be prepared to meet them where they are with a content management solution that reflects this in real time. This can help retain a valuable lead. Higher-quality data profiles, achievable with a centralized data framework that can receive information from a multitude of channels, make targeting an at-risk customer with “in-the-moment” marketing easier and can reduce churn.

Moving forward, to best connect with customers, brands will need an integrated, future-proofed approach to honoring privacy preferences and regulations. Focusing on developing a robust first-party data strategy will provide the best path forward for personalizing activations accurately and meaningfully. These initiatives build customer trust now and increase lifetime value and brand loyalty for the future.

Heidi Bullock is chief marketing officer of Tealium.

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