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Seeding Flexibility into Data & Tech During Uncertain Times

Needless to say, 2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years in recent history and one marked by a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Although many companies were agile and turned the COVID-19 challenge into an opportunity, many businesses were ill prepared to capitalize on the sudden changes caused by the pandemic as establishing a unified and robust digital infrastructure wasn’t prioritized beforehand.

The meme that took over LinkedIn…


I’m sure you’ve seen this meme circulating across your LinkedIn network… and depending on your brand’s current situation, it may have hit a little too close to home. 

To make sense of the accelerated pace of change in consumer attitudes and digital transformation, dentsu conducted a survey of 32,000 respondents across 22 markets to decode four possible scenarios around personal data that may become reality over a five-year horizon. It is true - consumer attitudes towards personal data can be hard to crack, but understanding them is key to delivering more relevant, engaging consumer experiences. 

To make sense of the survey data, I’ll break things down further by considering the potential opportunities and threats of each possible scenario, the key success factors brands will need to implement to drive growth and finally, my prediction as to the likelihood of each scenario. 

Personal data scenarios out to 2025 & what they mean for brands

Each scenario will require a different approach for brands, regardless of their industry, in order to continue building strong relationships with existing customers and to unlock new audiences. In the diagram below, I outline the specifics of the four possible scenarios and consider the relevant opportunities and threats for each. 

Given the associated opportunities and threats, each scenario requires specific capabilities to better capture the upside and/or mitigate the risks. 

What can brands do to prepare in the likelihood of a given scenario? 

Here are my two cents…

Scenario A: Central Control

Key success factors:

  • Invest in data science and advanced analytics tools
  • Emphasize transparent and secure first party data acquisition
  • Build DTC products and services
  • Continuous data and technology training
  • Enhance data-driven culture and mindset
Scenario B: Digital Utilities

Key success factors:

  • More focus on digital consulting services
  • Formulate data and technology implementation plans
  • Invest in digital currency and blockchain infrastructure for seamless data exchange compensation
Scenario C: Privacy Premium

Key success factors:

  • Early adhesion to data governance and data privacy frameworks 
  • Acquire and communicate compliance with highly stringent data security certifications such as SOC2
  • Build an attractive loyalty program tightly coupled with brand CRM and media platform
Scenario D: Free for All

Key success factors:

  • Suit up! Have a strong cybersecurity and data privacy legal team
  • Invest in data aggregation and robotic process automation (RPA) platforms
  • Create branded digital currency powered by blockchain and biometric features
  • Apply critical thinking and advanced analytics methodologies

Looking to 2025 

Based on the survey findings, recent digital trends and conversations with industry leaders I forecast a hybrid between Digital Utilities and Privacy Premium scenarios, whereby consumers expect businesses to treat their data with greater care yet are still willing to share their data openly in return for more premium and personalized services. However, I’ve noticed that most brands only have the basic capabilities that would allow them to be adequately prepared for these scenarios. The dramatic changes brought forth by the pandemic exposed many digital infrastructure gaps, especially when it comes to following adequate data security protocols, and owning a tightly integrated Media and CRM ecosystem that would allow for greater value to brand customers.

What does this mean for brands?

Depending on a brand’s specific business context, each key success factor and initiative will result in varying degrees of robustness. The aim is to stress test the strength of your strategic initiatives against each forecasted scenario. As data and technology consultants for leading brands across Canada, we ensure that we seed flexibility into initiatives by proposing tailored options that are adaptable regardless of future realities.

As a first step in this journey, I recommend completing iProspect’s Digital Aptitude Assessment to help us map your current position on the digital maturity curve. Our team of data experts can present the findings of your assessment and guide you towards future-proofing your business in times of increasing uncertainty.