The collection and use of consumer data have become increasingly important for many businesses looking to unlock value.

However, the introduction of the POPI Act, which protects consumers against the unethical collection and use of their personal data, has been a leap forward for the industry and may still be regarded as daunting by businesses looking to source consumer data.

For some time now, data has been regarded as a hot commodity, predicted to reach an astounding market value of USD$280-billion by 2025. And the ethical sourcing of data, done right can be of great value for businesses as it equips them with valuable information that can improve products and services.

Additionally, it can help businesses and marketers meet and exceed customer expectations — allowing for the creation of products that appeal to consumers.

In this light, there are three types of data:
  1. raw data
  2. aggregated data, and
  3. data from Machine learning (ML).
Raw data is any data in the form of transactional data meant for internal use. The aggregated data is used to build dashboards to get insights or reports for decision-making. ML data can be used to improve software application performances to become more accurate at predicting outcomes.

An example of machine learning is the use of a recommendation engine that powers a platform's news feed where, if a user interacts with content, the recommendation engine will show more content of a similar nature.

In terms of collecting consumer data, transparency is key in that it gives the data collector the onus to outline the reasons behind data collection, how it will be used and why it's being collected. Openness and honesty are key.

Collecting data is necessary for every business's success and can benefit both the business and its consumers, but it needs to be sourced ethically.

There are many ways that consumer data is usually collected, and below are two methods that help marketers collect data in a way that is not intrusive — which can be a win-win for both brands and consumers.

1. Surveys
Create customer polls / surveys to ask consumers for their input on how to improve brand services or products.

It is always an excellent token to reward the customers for participating in the surveys, and customers may be more willing to share their thoughts and data.

Discounts for consumer purchases are a good way to for enabling opt-in to collect data. For service businesses, a free consultation is an example of a discount.

Brands can get creative with rewards as freebies are loved by consumers. This method can be cost-free for businesses that are cash-strap; thus, utilising free platforms such as Google forms and other free online survey tools can be a good strategy.

2. A one-pager or e-mailer
A one-pager or e-mailer is the method recommended for exploring.

From this method, businesses can have 10+ ideas that you can use to collect data. The survey can still be part of the lead generation. One can create a one-pager for use to run a competition, an interactive quiz, or share success secrets from thought leaders and many more. Consumers can be rewarded with e-books and white papers.

The most significant part is to ensure that consumers fill out a short form before they can download the white paper or e-book.

The good thing about the one-pager is that it can be shared through a link with consumers via:
  • social media
  • email
  • instant messaging apps, or
  • any other communication avenues.
In contrast, the emailer requires an existing database to send this mailer.

Data can be ethically collected without infringing on consumer rights. According to a survey, less than 40% of companies manage data as a business asset. Data is the new commodity: If you are currently not collecting data while interacting with your consumer, you are leaving money on the table.
Back to data collection 101, the more information on customers, the better brands can understand their interests, wants and needs — and it will inform better decisions when building products. 

Products informed by data can be a powerful way to solve users' needs. It is always great to have internal data; however, if data is bought from a supplier, the best practice is to source structured data from a reputable company that collects data ethically.

Increasing transparency and customer communication is the only way to navigate the current regulatory landscape. Whichever method brands and organisations choose to acquire the data, they need to determine what information is needed, where to collect it from and how much data they want.

Always aim to collect high-quality data to help transform your business and make better decisions. 

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