As data becomes more widely available, the time is nearing when marketers and consumers alike will become equally data-driven in their way of life. Rachel Nyswander Thomas, executive director of DMA’s Data-Driven Marketing Institute, said she might even argue that we are at that point already.

This was just one of the topics of discussion during a recent DMA webinar titled “Turning the Tables: The Age of Data-Driven Consumerism.” The session was led by Thomas and gathered insight from four other panelists.

Transforming the Consumer Experience

Arun Kumar, group director at Razorfish, gave an example of how data is changing the way consumers behave.

With apps such as Uber and Lyft at our fingertips, hailing a cab to get a ride is no longer the only option. Now, consumers can decide what company will service them after reviewing information about the driver, how far the closest drive is and how much they will be charged, he explained.

“Consumers are now modifying their behavior in response to data they’re getting from their environment,” Kumar said.

Amy Radin, columnist at The Huffington Post, shared how data is also influencing consumer decisions in health care.

ZocDoc, for example, is bringing transparency through consumer reviews and aggregation so you can choose your doctors by looking at what others are saying about them and also looking online to see when the next available appointment is.  This type of access she said, can “transform the model of how we seek health care today.”

As consumers look to data more and more, Jeremy TerBush, VP of global analytics at RCI/Wyndham, discussed how available data leads to greater accountability from organizations.

TerBush explained consumers have a much better idea of what type of offers are being provided, so companies have to be smart and intelligent about the offers, the prices changes made, and be intelligent about how things are priced and how that is perceived in the marketplace. This, he added, “puts more pressure on businesses to get these tactical decisions right because there’s so many people watching … if you have a misstep, consumers will let you know and share that and broadcast that information out.”

However, beyond information on pricing and services, Kumar stressed that it’s not just about the offers themselves, but the company behind the offer. Consumers have ways to get data on what goes behind the overall company, he said, and so they’re also thinking about the brand and what it stands for and if it’s trustworthy.

This means “being authentic through multiple channels, communicating similar messages and putting chips in front of the consumers so they can say, ‘this is the brand I trust,’” he said.

Thomas added that with the increased transparency, a company’s reputation can also serve as the “halo around the offer.” And, in exchange for trust, consumers also want to be empowered and not just receive offers, but to have a conversation with the company and have a say, she explained.

Instead of brands telling consumers what to think of their company, Kumar further noted consumers are now saying, “tell me what I need to know about your brand, and I’ll form an image of your brand in my head.”

“There’s the message that companies keep putting out about their product and how great they are, but there’s also information about how this company is actually performing, how ethical it is, how it is sourcing it’s raw materials…,” he said.

Privacy concerns were also touched on during the webinar.

Joelle Tramel, global insights strategy lead at Google, provided insight on the role of markers in this area, stressing the importance of making consumers aware data is compatible with privacy.

“It’s our job as marketers to keep users’ data safe and make them aware so we can have true and unique relations between consumers and brands,” she said.

Despite privacy concerns, the movement toward the data-driven consumer is still rising. Thomas asked the panelists what may be leading to the increase.  Kumar gave three reasons: the data is there, it’s easy to use and more importantly, it has clear tangible value to the consumer.

And this provided value is crucial for marketers.

“When you’re bringing value to consumers as a marketer, people are more free about the data they’re sharing with you,” Tramel said.

Kumar stressed that at the end of the day, it’s about people, and not a cookie or ID.

“As long as marketers remember there’s a reason, a person at the end of their efforts, they will be true and honest in the efforts they make,” he said. 

Explore more data-driven issues and gain new, actionable insights and skills at the Email Evolution Conference 2015, February 2-4, the Marketing Analytics Conference, (MAC), March 9, and Mobile Marketing Day, March 12.