Redlining the Golden Record

May 15, 2023

In our previous blog, we laid out how we’re at a point of precipitous “signal loss” of good-quality data, the struggles of improving this quality, and the dangers of relying on poor-quality data. With more than 50% of marketers relying on (AI) for data-driven personalization at scale, having reliable good quality data is of utmost importance. However, to put it bluntly, in the words of Michael Stonebraker, “without clean data, or clean enough data, your data science is worthless.” And this will persist until we, as data practitioners, fix our existing “data supply chain” to ensure better quality data throughout.

Of course, poor data quality is a systemic issue and tackling it would require effort from all parties along the data supply chain. The criticality and widespread nature of this problem has pushed the industry to come together to define standards for data transparency, ensuring its quality, provenance, and trustworthiness. However, in light of anticipated signal loss and the deluge of bad data, continuing along the existing approaches will only exacerbate the problem.  The CMO Council revealed that even though 91% of marketers say that having direct access to customer data is a critical competitive advantage, only 6% of the North American respondents said they have high access to it. It reported that as much as “21 cents of every media dollar spent by organizations” was wasted due to the poor quality or unavailability of data. 

But we often overlook another untapped source of truth and potential willing partner in the data ecosystem - the user. So now the question is will users be willing to participate in such a data value exchange? Steve Jobs stated in 2010, “I believe people are smart and some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them... Let them know precisely what you're going to do with their data” (who doesn’t love a callback to the last episode). And indeed, multiple recent surveys show that customers are actually willing to engage with brands for fair and transparent data value exchange. Consumers want personalized customer experience (52%) and  transparency and control over explicit consent (76%) in exchange for sharing their data. They want visibility to see how their data benefits them (and society). “41% of Millennials feel brands should be able to immediately adapt offers and interactions at the moment of new data ingestion”

We can take this value exchange even further. Users can willingly and actively correct the data  they share or that brands may derive for a more personalized experience. Imagine a scenario where a consumer has consented to share their shopping history with a brand. And the brand in turn has predicted the user's interests, like “swimming, traveling, books…” to provide personalization. Suppose that the user is not into swimming but kayaking instead and can actually inform the brand in real-time to make this change. This is a fantastic win-win scenario! The brand benefits from improved data quality, enabling them to build even more precise models, and the consumer incentive is to get a tailored experience and better ads, recommendations, discounts, etc. in the future.

Trust in brands has been the major hurdle in enabling such exchange. This is where we think the regulations (CPRA, CDPA, CPA, GDPR, etc.) can play a major role. The provisions of these regulations with regards to consumers' right to delete, withhold and restrict sharing of data, and the resulting risk of “signal loss” has been a somewhat understandable source of trepidation for the Industry (capital “I”). That said, two of the other provisions commonly found in these regulations - the right to correct (rectify) data and the right to portability of data- lay the foundations for consumers’ engagement with brands in free-flowing data exchange as well as their ability (and right) to correct their data. What we need now are processes and platforms to support direct interactions between customers and their data and the brands that they want to partner with. It is critical for such platforms to be designed so consumers do not feel inundated and lost in the complexities of consent management. Users need easy-to-access tools that provide "simple, clear and consistent information" and the ability to correct data. The right degree of control can tip the scales of trust in both regulations and brands from the users’ perspective.

Here at Caden, we believe that the regulations such as CPRA and others are actually the catalysts we need and we hope to usher in an era of newer, sustainable, high-velocity, and high-quality data supply chains, based on explicit consent and informed responsibility.