Digital Marketing

What the Emergence of Consent and Preference Management Technology Means

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Written by Publishing Team

Photo: John Tyson

At the intersection of the 3P (with apologies to Philip Kotler) – privacy, preference, and personalization – lies a massive new opportunity for competitive advantage that marketers have only just woken up. This is made possible by increasingly powerful approval technology and preference management that allows brands to take personalization to the next level.

Privacy and personalization are often seen as opposites. But the arrival of consent and preference management solutions gives marketers the opportunity to switch to a privacy and customer first approach.

What is approval and preference management?

Consent management is the process of requesting permission from people to collect, process and store their data in order to carry out marketing activities. When customers choose or sign up for something the brand has to offer — whether it’s to receive notifications, newsletters, or offers — they give consent.

Preference management is when customers willingly provide information to marketers about their preferences, to receive better and more personalized communications and experiences. These are several degrees higher than approval-led subscriptions, as they give the marketer the ability to communicate at the time, frequency, channels, and topics the customer prefers. It is not the inferred preference that marketers work with so far, but the actual stated preference of the customer. This data, provided voluntarily by the customer, is also called zero-party data. Needless to say, it’s the most powerful type of first-party data a brand can hope for.

Related article: The demise of the cookie and the emergence of first-party data

Combine approval and preference to improve customer experience

While approval management has been in the spotlight since the GDPR came into effect, it has been isolated in the compliance group rather than seen as a marketing necessity. Customer preferences, when combined at all, are usually stand-alone marketing initiatives.

However, approval along with preference reveals a whole new set of possibilities for marketers that focus on customer experience.

The feasibility study for building a seamless system of consent and preference management appears robust. While managing consent is a matter of compliance, managing preferences can be a matter of profit. Together, they add a new dimension to the customer experience.

When managing approval and preferences, marketers can hope to see one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Create brand trust and credibility.
  • Ensure compliance with data privacy.
  • Improve marketing efficiency by only sending the message that is most likely to succeed.
  • Enable the most efficient customization of premium experiences.
  • Have the customer firmly in control of how the brand communicates with them.
  • Involve the customer at the moment of change, provide alternatives to opt out altogether, and ask for feedback or reasons for disruption.

Related article: Will there still be marketing after GDPR?

Who Will Own Approval and Preferences Management?

So, who will address the approval and preference management cat? Quimby Melton, co-founder and CEO of, a privacy-first data solutions provider, adds that while compliance is a must, it’s also a cost center. This is why marketing, which now has a reasonably proven track record of turning data into profits, “has the best chance of turning compliance painkillers into a value-adding vitamin. This means that marketing, who is also responsible for customer experience, is in the best position to start making Something meaningful with the output.”

Susan Raab, managing partner of the CDP Institute and editor of the weekly Privacy to Market newsletter, feels that the days of legal and IT customer privacy policies are over. Because of increasingly complex new regulations and because customer loyalty is at stake, “companies – particularly marketing – must address this with a privacy-by-design approach, or they will constantly play to catch up and put themselves at risk.”

Raab said CMOs planning to take the lead in strategic investment should look at privacy as it relates to the entire organization, and aim for stakeholder approval and input from the start. This also means external stakeholders, primarily the customer itself. So far, companies are trying to protect their “control of the process” and customers are trying to protect their data as a matter of principle. Milton describes this ongoing friction between the customer and the company as a “war of the naive,” and said it was time to treat it as a win-win situation. This is exactly where and why CMOs should step in and make a feasibility study to give people greater user control over their data while giving marketers better decision-making insights.

“This approach will reduce data storage costs, CMS usage costs, and time teams spend chasing uninterested leads. By giving regular web users more control over their data, we will build a more relevant and focused set of opportunities and better relationships with our customers.”

Related article: COVID-19 changed B2B customers forever

Consent and preference management system considerations

Adding a consent and preference management system in addition to existing complex marketing processes can be a challenge, although it is closely related to marketing and customer experience goals. Rapp highlighted several related parts of marketing to consider as they fit their needs and capabilities of the system. These include workflows for subscriptions and onboarding; Emailing the site for ongoing posts such as subscriptions; data exchange and internal and external access; pulling out. elapsed customers and whether users are provided with sufficient options and opportunities to choose and change their preferences at any stage of the interaction.

For smoother deployments, either the existing marketing processes are well-equipped before the privacy system (which includes approval and preference) is installed, or if it is built from the ground up, approval and preference should be part of the strategy and stack from the start. However, as we delve deeper into the reality of privacy first, Milton cautioned, logging consent can be as difficult as logging any other browser-wide event (pageview, click, etc.). “Marketers should consider the efficacy of their consent management solution in the case of increasingly stringent privacy. Consider solutions that are able to collect, store, and distribute data in a way that is unaffected by customer-side disruptions involving cookies, cross-domain scripts, and device identifiers.”

The vendor also needs a proven track record of keeping up with regulations, the ability to educate customers on how changes will affect their business, and the ability to scale and respond to future orders. For example, in a multi-channel world, systems also need to operate and communicate across multiple channels and devices, including web, mobile, CTV and possibly even IoT and wearables.

Finally, industry context—regulations for geography, budgets and business priorities, current levels of integration, and customer data maturity—all play a role in the decision.

Related Article: Why Marketers Should Be Leading With Customer Data Privacy

Stay ahead of the curve in the world of privacy first

Ultimately, Milton said, customer experience is stuck between three very strong pressure points:

  1. Top-down pressures from policy makers (eg, GDPR, compliance, regulatory requirements).
  2. Bottom-up pressure from customers (“We want more privacy and control over our data”).
  3. Business interests that require reliable and accessible data (“We need the data to do our best work”).

As consent and management preferences converge, and technology matures to enable and integrate these systems, marketers can finally overcome the tension between privacy and personalization. In fact, they can turn it into an opportunity to build better relationships with customers and gain a competitive advantage. Those who are able to mentally transform the data privacy view of the CX Lens will take the lead in this effort.

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