• Marketing

Consent and Preference Management: Regulatory table stakes or consumer insight?


When it comes to data privacy, the business aphorism “it’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission” does not apply. And the more consumers learn about how their data is used, the less forgiving they have become. Consumer attitudes are very clear on this.

For example, in the runup to Apple’s iOS 14.5 release adtech and the marketers relying on cross-platform tracking were fairly convinced that users would choose not to opt in and rob them of the metrics by which marketing programs currently live and die. They were right. The first metrics are in. “Just around four percent of U.S. users have said ‘yes.’” And while much higher outside the U.S., worldwide only 12% are agreeing to being surveilled according to Verizon’s Flurry Analytics (Kraus, 2021).

Consumers are not confining their evasion techniques to Apple’s iOS 14.5. As detailed by Forrester Principal Analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo, 77% of US adults use at least one security or privacy-preserving tool online and 65% think that it’s wrong for brands to track them across devices even to send them more relevant ads. McKinsey also reports that consumers are increasingly evading marketers using “web browsers with built-in cookie blockers [and] ad-blocking software (used on more than 600 million devices around the world), and incognito browsers (used by more than 40 percent of internet users globally” (McKinsey & company, 2020).

To simply ignore these data and the trends they portend does not seem tenable.

It is without doubt that “…executives face hard, even profound, strategic decisions touching on core issues such as balancing customer privacy with monetization of their data, moving with speed and agility while embedding security and privacy…” (PWC, 2021). But it is equally certain that marketing executives must have a means to gauge, understand, and act on the consumer appetite for sharing data. The ability to flex with consumer needs as they evolve to ensure marketing efforts and spend are in sync with consumer preferences. Fortunately, the means to make the case for why sharing that data will benefit your customer, engender consumer trust, add value, and build enduring relationships, is readily available.

Consent and Preference Management

Among the 50% of firms that have a CMP [Consent and Preference Management Platform] fully or partially deployed, nearly four out of five also have a personalization solution deployed or in deployment…Brands that embrace personalization aspire to establish a connection with their customers, and trust is the foundation of that connection.

Gartner, 2020

With the advent of the GDPR, followed by the CCPA, managing the consent and preference of consumers became requisite for those businesses whose existing and potential customers are subject to these regulations and others. But website banners announcing the use of cookies and gross categorical opt-out or in options, while a necessary starting point, are only the table stakes of compliance. Deployment of consent and preference management of this nature has the regulatory authority centered as the customer.

Failing to evolve beyond a compliance-centric deployment to a more fully realized consent and preference management platform (CMP) – with the consumer at its center – is a missed opportunity. And one that can be costly. The heightened consumer trust realized with a more granular CMP deployment is “demonstrably associated with higher revenues and profitability” according to more than 50% of organizations surveyed (PWC, 2021). Yet, as the aforementioned Gartner study notes, “…an underwhelming percentage of marketers,” just 25%, report having these systems deployed” at all. Ultimately, “focus on compliance at the expense of culture could also mean a restricted view of a prospect or customer for a salesperson, which would, in turn, impact conversion rates and profitability” (Wright, 2021, emphasis added).

In other words, your consent and preference management platform can be a nexus of compliance, broadcast corporate culture, and important customer insight when fully realized. The CMP is now the first customer touchpoint that will establish the ground rules of the brand-consumer relationship. It can turn an increasingly “restricted view” into an expansive one that engenders trust and loyalty and delivers increased value to the consumer and brand alike. For those who have not yet implemented a consent and preference management platform (irrespective of regulatory mandates), what message is broadcast?

The Mutual Stake of Marketing, Compliance, and Consumer

The monetization of data does not have to be at odds with consumer centricity. The stakeholders from sales to compliance to consumer are not mutually exclusive, but inclusive. A well-deployed CMP satisfies and leverages across stakeholder requirements and will better inform marketing and sales strategy.

Consumers: The customer, increasingly privacy-conscious, wants to know the brand’s position regarding privacy. They do not want to read a contractual agreement. They want to understand the brand’s conception of data privacy and implied social values. The request for data, and what the firm does with it, must be relevant, consensual, and beneficial to the consumer.

The customer wants to intuit not only the ability, but the willingness of the brand to safeguard their personal information and allow them to choose how, when, and to whom they reveal that information. The more granular consumer control, the better. Importantly, as the relationship matures, and the company establishes trust, consumers often become more effusive with their information.

These preferences are completely in sync with long-standing sales and marketing best practices.

Sales and Marketing: Sales wants to know the individual consumer’s preferences and know that those preferences flow through to the CRM platform so they can understand and honor them and guide contact behaviors. Sales also needs to know when those preferences change – which they will – as the consumer moves through the buyer’s journey or their relationship with the company matures and expands. This alone will increase sales effectiveness.

While marketing wants omnichannel capabilities, sales wants to communicate through the prospective customers preferred channel. And while sales is focused on a one-to-one relationship, marketing can aggregate the preference data collected to uncover insights and build highly effective personas to improve outreach effectiveness.

Regulatory Compliance: Consent and preference management is critical to compliance for those companies subject to regulations. Compliance needs to know that consent has been given and documented in accordance with the regulatory regime(s) that govern the activities. That internal reporting flows easily and external reporting such as Records of Processing Activities (ROPAs) are supported. And as many organizations discovered through painful experience, managing data subject access requests (DSARs) without a CMP is all but impossible.

However, those who restrict their CMP focus to a compliance-only purview will rob sales and marketing of valuable consumer insights. What could be knowable will have been made unknowable, but still necessary to manage. And those who opt not to implement consent and preference management at all will find themselves at a significant competitive disadvantage to those that do.

While data privacy may be perforce a regulatory mandate emanating from the GDPR, CCPA, CPRA, CDPA, and other regulatory regimes, it will be far more profitable to perceive data privacy as the growing, still largely unmet, consumer demand that it is. Those who do will profit from meeting it. Those who do not, well, survival is not mandated.

Manage your customers legal, marketing and compliance preferences with WireWheel’s Trust Access and Consent Center.

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