What do consumers expect from their experiences with a brand? Personalised product recommendations? Consistency across website, social and email? Speedy customer support via automated chatbot?

As important as some of these features may be, consumers are much less likely to say they are table stakes when compared to data governance.

Adobe’s Digital Trends 2024 report includes a survey of 6,800 consumers from 13 countries. When asked, ‘How important are each of the following to meeting your customer experience expectations?’ – 63% of respondents said it was ‘critically important’ to receive ‘assurance that my personal data is being used responsibly and securely by the brand’. Respondents were significantly more likely to rate this as critical than any other option (see figure 1).

Efficient and automated customer support was described as critical by 36% of respondents, followed by ‘consistent and seamless interactions across different online channels’ (34%), personalised product recommendations (26%), and tools such as virtual try-ons and interactive product demos (28%).

Figure 1: When interacting with brands generally, how important are each of the following to meeting your customer experience expectations? (Consumer)

Reinforcing data governance – imperative in a world of AI

While it may not be entirely surprising to see most consumers rank data security as critical to CX expectations (think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), it is more pertinent than ever. Consumers want to know their data is being looked after, especially in the hands of generative AI.

One of the recommendations in Adobe’s report is to reinforce data governance. Internal teams “want reassurance they can use data to inform their strategies without inadvertently breaching that trust. Strong data compliance policies can be built on the back of robust data systems to instil that trust and pave the way for progress.”

It seems clear from another chart in the report that consumer attitudes regarding data governance are intertwined with their expectations of personalisation. Figure 2 shows that 65% of respondents admitted to being worried about how much data brands hold about them, with 60% agreeing they get frustrated with brands that know a lot about them but don’t take their preferences into account.

Readers will likely know that data minimisation is one of three principles about data standards in the GDPR, alongside accuracy and storage limitation. Article 5(1)(c) says personal data shall be “adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed”. As many brands build out their zero- and first-party data in response to the deprecation of tracking cookies and changes to privacy frameworks, the onus is on them to clearly communicate their data processing intentions.

Indeed, consumers desire more transparency from brands when dealing with their data. More than two thirds (67%) of consumers responding to Adobe’s survey agreed they “would be more open to granting permission to use [their] data if brands were more transparent about how they were using and securing it.” If there is room for brands to be clearer about how they intend to use data, this perhaps has a bearing on the fact that less than half of consumers (49%) agree that ‘the more brands know about me, the better service they can give me’.

The report therefore advises marketers not to make assumptions about personalisation. Instead, “build a better understanding of how and where customers want to experience personalisation and how touchpoints should connect across their journey. Then use that understanding to ‘right-size’ digital experiences based on their preferences.”

Figure 2: To what extent do you agree with each of the following statements? (Consumer)

Personalisation on their terms, in the moment?

One question in the report asked consumers to choose between pairs of options, selecting which one is most important to them when choosing a brand.

  • Nearly two thirds (62%) chose ‘great product recommendations in-app or on the website’ over ‘marketing emails and texts with offers tailored for me’.
  • And 3 in 5 consumers chose ‘emails with top offers of the day’ over ‘text messages with offers personalised for me’.

As the report states, these findings reveal that “most prefer communications on their own schedule.” This dynamic is reinforced by the 44% of respondents who said that ‘making self-service easier’ would provide a better digital experience, beaten only by ‘improving customer service transfers’ (52%).

All in all, the picture is one of businesses struggling to unify their data “in a robust sytem”. Without this, businesses may find it difficult to accurately judge consumer expectations or to move further with emerging innovations such as AI-powered experiences.

Download the Adobe Digital Trends report, produced in association with Econsultancy.