Connected & Ready

The data dilemma: balancing privacy and customer experience, with Maciej Zawadzinski

Episode Summary

Consumers have an increasing awareness of online data privacy concerns. This concern does not have to impede the customer journey, provided companies understand their responsibility to their customers. In this episode of Connected & Ready, Gemma talks with Maciej Zawadziński, CEO of Piwik PRO and online privacy rights advocate. They discuss why the customer’s digital experience is so important for engagement, the balance of data-driven experiences and individual privacy, how data shapes our perception of online advertising effectiveness, and how companies can collect data in privacy-friendly ways. Learn how Dynamics 365 Marketing can help your team build relationships that increase lead generation and expand sales opportunities. Request a live demo today:

Episode Notes

Host Gemma Milne is joined by Maciej Zawadziński, CEO of Piwik PRO and data privacy advocate, to talk about the evolution of public consciousness regarding data privacy, how companies use customer journey to drive engagement, and what a future win-win scenario for customers and companies might look like for privacy-friendly advertising. 


About Maciej Zawadziński

Maciej is CEO at Piwik PRO, an AdTech and MarTech expert, and founder of several successful

companies, as well as an online privacy rights advocate. In his work he strives towards more conscious data use and a healthier digital advertising ecosystem and is currently devoting his knowledge and skills to developing Piwik PRO, a privacy-focused analytics platform positioned as an alternative to Google Analytics. With the help of a team of more than 100 people, his goal is for Piwik PRO Analytics Suite to be the platform of choice for every privacy-friendly company. Maciej is also a founder of Clearcode, a world-leading software developer specializing in custom advertising and marketing technology. A general aviation pilot and cat lover, he lives in Wrocław, Poland.

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Episode Transcription

Gemma [00:00:05] Hello and welcome. You're listening to Connected and Ready, an ongoing conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed brought to you by Microsoft. I'm Gemma Milne. I'm a technology journalist and author. And I'm going to be exploring trends around how companies are adapting to a disrupted world and preparing for tomorrow. We're going to speak to the innovators who are bringing products, operations, and people together in new ways. In today's episode, I'm chatting to Maciej Zawadziński, CEO of Piwik Pro, AdTech and MarTech expert, and online privacy rights advocate. We chat about how privacy, customer journey data and online advertising coincide, why analyzing a customer's digital experience is so important for engagement, and with public consciousness around data rights rising, what a future win-win scenario for privacy-friendly advertising might look like. 

[00:00:58] Maciej, thank you so much for joining us on the show. I wonder if you could start by just giving us a little bit of an introduction to yourself, your role, and what you're currently working on. 

Maciej [00:01:06] Thanks for having me. I'm the founder and CEO of Piwik Pro. And Piwik Pro is a platform that lets you analyze customer journey in a privacy compliant and secure way. So you can think of this as a privacy-friendly alternative to Google Analytics. But it gives you even more possibilities, like building a single customer view or personalization. We offer our solution in a cloud and on premises version. And in the cloud version we offer local data residency and we partnered with Microsoft Azure to provide that across the world in different countries. 

Gemma [00:01:47] So your company, Piwik Pro, how does it differ from something like Power BI? What are the sort of differences and focus between these sort of two tools, two platforms? 

Maciej [00:01:56] Power BI is a tool that lets you report the data from different sources. And we even have integration with Power BI where you can export our data to Power BI and create reports there, maybe combining this data also from other data sources that you have. 

Gemma [00:02:15] Amazing. For everyone who's listening, who perhaps is not quite as expert as you are on all things customer journey and privacy and all sorts. Let's rewind back a little bit and make sure we can bring everyone up to speed. So let's talk a little bit about the role of customer journey. First, why is it so important for organizations to be able to collect this data on customers' journeys? And what's the benefit of having this clear picture of how consumers engage or don't engage with brands? 

Maciej [00:02:41] So brands today fight for consumer attention online and customer experience is playing a significant role in customer choices. It's like also in the offline world, we are not looking for the cheapest offer, but we also look for like the one that appeals to us the most. And you have to understand how users are interacting with your brand online. When they get frustrated how we can improve it to make this experience more enjoyable and seamless.

Gemma [00:03:16] And tell us a little bit about the changes that maybe this year has brought on, because, of course, everything that's been happening with the pandemic has meant that there's been this increased focus online, whether it's us conducting this interview right now over Teams or whether it's people working from home and engaging with their entire companies online. And then, of course, indeed, consumers doing so many new things online that perhaps they weren't before. 

[00:03:41] So how is this, I guess, importance of having a clear picture changed this year? Is it sort of more or less important? 

Maciej [00:03:47] So we saw this trend that consumers interact more and more online over the years, now over decades, probably since the inception of the Internet. But you're right that this has accelerated in recent months. Traffic spiked on many government websites, e-commerce websites, but also online content consumption has accelerated because people couldn't go out to the cinema or theater. They had to do everything in front of their screens. So that's one thing that's entertainment or like shopping piece. But it's also remote work that has gone mainstream. And that means that more interactions are happening online. For example, conferences. There are no events that I know of that's happening offline. Everything is online. Another example that I can think of is we, like many parents, try to be responsible and have the screen time limits for their children. And according to recent surveys, it's like that limit has gone or has doubled because there is no way to go out and play normally. So I think, in general, online has gone mainstream. It's becoming a primary channel for many brick and mortar brands, as well as for many businesses that happened offline. So this also elevates the importance of the customer journey and being able to analyze it, optimize it to win those customers. 

Gemma [00:05:19] So obviously, knowing you have to get this clear picture of a customer journey, that's going to require collecting data and all different kinds of data, which, of course, we can go on to. But first of all, how are companies sort of ensuring that they're being responsible with this data as they collect it and take action on it? I mean, this is such a huge conversation that has also become even more mainstream in recent times. 

Maciej [00:05:41] Yeah, it has become more mainstream because of the fines and regulations that are coming up in every part of the world. So it started with Europe, but US and other countries in the developed, as well as developing world, has followed with their counterparts of the privacy laws. 

[00:06:01] And I think this is for a reason, because also the consumer awareness has grown to the level that it makes sense to invest in privacy. 

[00:06:11] It makes sense to put it on your political agenda because it's what the consumers want. So it didn't happen that politicians wanted to make our world better. It's played well with their rankings, like they have to take care of it because it's an important thing for people. We are still living in a bit of Wild West of Data-Collection online. If I go to some of the popular websites and I see, like, a hundred trackers via my Ghostery or some other extension, that's still not compliant. 

[00:06:43] And of course, there are efforts made to make this data collection more ethical as well as with user consent. But with that comes a lot of challenges, for example, like low consent rates, because none of the consumers really want to give this consent, like if we force them or trick them into giving them, maybe yes. But that's also not the reason why we had this privacy laws in the first place. 

Gemma [00:07:09] We've talked about how it's more mainstream now for people to think a lot about how they feel about their data being shared online and increasingly saying, no, I don't want to share my data with companies and all that sort of thing. You mentioned using Ghostery to check how many trackers are on each website that you land on. How well-known are these devices and tools and whatnot for actually keeping track of how you're getting tracked? You know, what do people actually know what it means to be tracked online, or is this something that still only a few of us nerds are indulging in? 

Maciej [00:07:45] I think the popularity of these tools increases. Like, I think it started with Adblock and the advertising industry did it to themselves. 

[00:07:57] We actually, in Poland, are number one, I think, with the penetration of Adblock. Like I think 40 percent or like 35 percent use it. Globally, it's still a lot because, globally, it's I think 25 percent. 

[00:08:10] And Adblocks, itself, they don't always show you what kind of vendors were blocked and so on. So some people just use it as a utility tool to have the website loaded faster and so show less ads. But some of them like Ghostery, Disconnect, or some of the ad blocks like Adblock Plus show the actual vendors that were blocked and some of the solutions, they started building a database, telling you what each vendor does. And that's very interesting, at least for me, maybe. I'm a bit technical. So it's super interesting for me. But I think more and more consumers will click, OK, what actually is this company and what they are doing? And that increases that awareness. And one more thing on this topic is that on the regulation side, the regulations also force the vendors to be more transparent and telling this in a language that isn't legalese. It's a more user-friendly way. I even have seen that vendors created this privacy pages where they try to explain that what personalization is, et cetera. And I think that helps a lot as well. I would like to see more of that, of course. But it's helps to increase the awareness and with greater awareness. I think also there will be more pressure to make it more civilized or more privacy friendly. 

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Gemma [00:10:10] We've talked a lot about companies using data on customer journeys, but what does that actually like what does it help the company do better by having this information? 

And also what's the benefit to the customer, too? 

Maciej [00:10:23] So they can learn, for example, what the users are struggling with when they are performing some action in the application. So if this would be online, e-commerce, this would be probably some checkout process or ordering process or journey of adding different products, finding the products that they need. But in the case of, for example, an online health care application it's like how many steps it takes or how many people drop out of the process of booking an online appointment with a doctor and performing it online versus people who actually didn't complete the process and use the phone to do it. So we, by measuring it and understanding what went wrong, we can improve it so that more people actually complete it. And I have also one good example. We work with our government clients a lot. And you can think, why does the government need this data? But they provide a lot of e-services online and they want to also serve the public in a way that they can do it online rather than, for example, calling or coming to them, to the government departments and doing it in person. So they use this analytics data in a way to see where people are, for example, spending too much time on because maybe they don't understand the form that they are filling in and then they are failing to do so.

Gemma [00:11:47] Let's kind of maybe have a bit of an example, specifically with online advertising. So obviously it's a great example of how companies are using data that they collect on their customers’ journeys to connect to them in meaningful ways or perhaps, you know, connecting at precisely the right time. Maybe you could walk us through an example of how this works or what that might look like for both the consumer, but also for the advertiser themselves. 

Maciej [00:12:08] Sure, there are so many ways in which this data gets collected and used. So I will try by giving a few small examples here. So first of all, like the whole thing about so-called third party data, which means this is not my company's data, it's some data that I'm buying in order to target better consumers online. This comes slowly to an end. And there are two reasons for that. One is the privacy regulations that limit it highly. And secondly, the browser vendors already are disabling it. So this will come to an end. And there are a couple of ways that this was used. So one, so-called audience buying. So lets buy an audience of people between 30 to 45 with children, with that and that income or political preference, etc. So it's something that that brands used to attract the audience. And I think this is something that will be a relic of the past in the next two years. Then another example is measuring the effectiveness. Once we display advertising, we want to see whether this has an effect. So does customer visit our website or purchase if we are an online retailer or some online content provider. Or if this isn't effective at all. So this is how we allocate budgets and this is a huge challenge that we will have to solve in the coming years, because marketers cannot be blindly buying media for millions or dozens of millions of dollars without knowing the effect of that. We can say like they did it with television. But actually there are some ways that you can measure the effectiveness with some partners. Of course, it's nothing compared to what we have online, but I think this will evolve and we can speak about that as well. And the further example maybe is something that I think will persist and we’ll be actually seeing more is personalization as well as using your first party data. So the data you own about your customers, your audience, and using that to provide a better user experience or provide personalized offers or see like how this consumer evolves over time, what's their lifetime value segment that analyzes, etc..

Gemma [00:14:37] I think it comes back to this point on consent and almost the customer, or the consumer, or the individual, just the person feeling like they still have a level of control of where they're saying, yeah, that's absolutely fine for me to keep my payment details in my wallet in this e-commerce commerce website, because, of course, I want to use it again, and it's useful. Versus sort of finding out later on the some kind of targeting has been done based on something you're like, I don't think I said yes to that. And did I have to say yes to all of it? Kind of one example you hear a lot that women talk about, for instance, is, they don't want to Google questions, for instance, about pregnancy because they know the minute they even ask a question, they know they're going to get bombarded with adverts related to this thing. And of course, that to me seems like almost like a failure of design of technology when you're almost having to like hack the use of it to not get a bad side of it, do you know what I mean? 

Maciej [00:15:37] Yeah, yeah, it's the opposite of the great user experience. Like you find these ways to go around the system that was created. And I think like the advertising industry, the online advertising industry, has big problems and they have to go step back and rethink the way it operates. 

[00:15:59] I don't think these players will self-regulate. It did fail for the years. And privacy laws also have a lot of issues. Of course, like right now, when you go to news websites or you just click like, OK, give me the news that I wanted to read. And I think most of the consumers do it, like, unconsciously click "Yes." Like with terms of service stuff that you just go through to go to the next steps. And that's a part of today's world. We want things now and we don't want to read the legal stuff. 

Gemma [00:16:36] And it shouldn't be a kind of, well, you wanted the legal stuff, so there it is. You know, that shouldn't be the only choice you have as a consumer is read pages and pages and pages of Ts and CS or access this thing right now by just quickly clicking, OK, and waiving all your rights. 

[00:16:52] You know, like I think I think that's kind of what I mean, when I say consent is not just one thing, it's not just a yes to all. It's almost like wanting to pick and choose. And that doesn't seem like such a ridiculous ask from a consumer standpoint when you think about the amount of data and access and I mean think about advertising markets online, for instance, that companies have access to, which are really well developed and could allow for this kind of piecemeal modular access, surely, if we wanted to design for it. But I'm curious to kind of go back to your point about sort of self-regulation versus governments. Do you feel that it's the governments that are going to have to step up with more data protection acts, whether it's advancing on GDPR, CCPA or HIPAA? Or do you think there maybe is a chance for organizations or are we kind of past that idea of trusting organizations to do it themselves? 

Maciej [00:17:46] Yeah, I think there is a third way that is actually happening. And these are the browser vendors. Because they are the gatekeepers of collecting this data and a lot of positive things have happened. There was intelligent tracking protection in Safari. There is enhanced tracking protection in Firefox. Even Google Chrome slowly introduced some changes to protect the privacy because they have to follow this trend. 

[00:17:03] So I think this is the way because we have to limit it technologically first and then the companies will adjust instead of like talking about individuals. Maybe we'll be talking about some audiences because this will be the only way to track the advertising effectiveness. 

[00:18:33] So I think the change will come from that direction. I'm skeptical about self-regulation as well as the privacy laws. They are going in the right direction and we are slowly even progressing with e-privacy in Europe. 

[00:19:21] But that's a long saga. It was supposed to be done in 2018 along with GDPR, and we are finishing 2020. And there is another draft published a couple days ago. 

Gemma [00:19:03] I want to build a little bit on something that you raised earlier, which is around measurement and advertisers being able to work out if they're getting their bang for their buck through all these various different pieces of data. 

[00:19:14] And there's a sort of emerging (and I say emerging in the sense that it's becoming more mainstream, and more loud, it's not that it's new) call by some kind of people saying, You know what, online advertising is actually just not as good as you think it is. But because we have so much data, it has the illusion of effectiveness. But what is it we're measuring? And is it even telling us that our money is being well spent versus things like TV or out of home or whatever? And I'm curious, what do you think about how measurement plays a role and how we think about online advertising, whether we think it's effective or not? And as you say, as time moves on and brands are not able to do as much measurement, perhaps, do you think there's going to be less trust in even bothering with online advertising at all? 

Maciej [00:19:59] Yeah, I agree with the point that, having so much ways to report the data on and like slice and dice this reports and show, OK, this is the users that were influenced by these channels and they were like, these channels contributed to the conversion. That the looks very, very nice and very convincing story, while with televisions you are quite limited. 

[00:19:25] And of course digital out of home, introduced some new possibilities because you are better targeting at least these audiences. This is not like broadcast to everyone the same, but you can focus different ads to different target groups. But getting back to the point of the online measurement, I think this will get the more audience based, campaign-based measurement and it will be closer to digital out of home than, of course, TV, because we'll still have a lot of data and targeting possibilities much better than in the offline world. But I think this will make this medium to have a more fair game over the ad budgets. Definitely. And I think the one thing that we have to also think about with the measurement is that there were a lot of issues with measurement and not being transparent about it and sometimes even having, like, claims that they didn't provide the right data. There was a so-called glitch in the algorithm of measurements. So I think these issues show advertisers that it's not digital. Online advertising isn't the only solution. And that we see, like, you know, with more budgets spent towards digital out of home or digital radio, that advertisers are being more and more aware. So they will be looking for other channels where they can spend money and somehow compare them. And this will be the biggest challenge, how to compare the effectiveness of the channels, especially that we are living in a world that there isn't like one channel that influences our decisions. Usually, the consumer is exposed to the multiple channels and there is absolutely no way to combine all of them in the reporting. 

Gemma [00:22:09] Let's go back a little bit to this idea of sort of public consciousness. So we've touched on a little bit in this conversation, this idea of the public consciousness. But let's focus on that a little bit. And if you have any other examples or detail, we'd love to hear it. How has the public consciousness been evolving with regards to individuals' online rights and sort of their desire to be in control of how their data is used? You know, are people less willing to share their information online? Are they more willing, depending? What's that kind of looking like in terms of what you're seeing from your side? 

Maciej [00:22:40] I think the trend is that with more awareness, you are less likely to want your data to be used, especially that you learn how it's used by some of the companies. So as it comes with the numbers, there isn't good research that was done consistently over the years to show the trend. But there are some research done by, I think it's the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, that they say that about half of the people do not want to share the personal data with private companies. And there are even researchers in the US that say it's like three quarters of the Americans say that it's very important to be in control of who can get information about them. 

[00:23:31] And that's more generic because it's not only about online advertisers, because this could be also credit checks, etc. So it's a bit broader, but it shows that there is an awareness of people that data about them is used for different purposes and they want to be in control. And I think it's natural for us people that we want to be in control of what's happening. And what we talked about is like these privacy laws and other activities like browser controls, et cetera. They intend to give the consumer control. The big problem is how it's done. It's, in many times, not done properly. And we just want to ignore the pop up and go to their website. 

Gemma [00:24:16] So, yeah, definitely. 

Maciej [00:24:17] I think that's something that we'll have to fix in coming years. 

Gemma [00:24:20] Definitely more to be done. And just even just redesigning those customer journeys. 

Maciej [00:24:26] We don't necessarily have to ask the consumer on the first interaction with our brands, like, give me consent for all the stuff that I want to do it with your data. 

I didn't build yet the trust with this consumer and why is this brand asking me all these things, when it's my first time here and I don't know if I want to do business with them yet. 

Gemma [00:24:47] So let's think about it a little bit from the company perspective. What's a company to do in amongst all of this, right? On one hand, you're hearing that your customers don't really want this. They don't want to be sharing data with you. But at the same time, customers are increasingly expecting, you know, easy, simple, quick checkouts or journeys through websites. But they also want to trust the brand that they are getting that privacy. And brands, as you see, if they're using other services and whatnot, can't necessarily always guarantee that. So what does it mean from the sort of organizational perspective when it comes to this kind of good experience, coexisting with privacy. Is privacy friendly, online advertising even possible? And if so, what does that look like? 

Maciej [00:25:32] Sure, sure. So there are two things: First, we want to have data on the customer journey, on effectiveness, customer flow for the website, for our full audience. And we know that we won't to get it with consent because there are low consent rates. Not everyone will ask it. And plus, we may not want to even ask it in the first interaction. So there needs to be some mechanism to get the limited data that does not identify individual. 

[00:26:04] But we can still see, OK, we have this customer experience problem on our website or in our application or consumers come from these channels, but they don't do anything else. So this is step one. So some sort of anonymous tracking or zero identity tracking that does not rely on identifying the visitor. It's done in the privacy friendly way. And I like you were talking about the principles of privacy by design and by default. I think that's something that is very good about GDPR. But what's not so widespread or understood was that when we design products, design websites with design software, we keep this in mind that we should collect minimum information that we need to provide a great customer service. 

So that's one thing. The other is like at some point when we get this trust, we want to have proper consent and collect more information about the customer so that we can do more with this data. And we can understand better how she interacts with our different content, different apps, different websites, different advertising. And we can do it on the consumer level the moment we have this consent, like this anonymous tracking will not help us because this gives us some information about transit aggregate on the aggregate level. So what I would recommend is make sure that you use solutions where you can get the aggregate data for pretty much every interaction with your online brand. But then for consumers, where you collected the consent and you did it in the right way, you didn't trick the consumer because you want to create the trust with the consumer and the relation online from the very beginning. And so it’s hard to start a relationship with a lie or with that user experience online. So be sincere and try to collect it in a way that you actually tell the consumers what they will get in the exchange. And if you don't have anything to offer, you want to just do remarketing, maybe that's not the way you should do it, we're thinking. So that would be probably the first two things that I would think about that I understand that online marketing without a full dataset might be very difficult and you might be like doing it in the dark a bit if you don't have it, but you can collect it on the aggregate level, not on the consumer level. 

Gemma [00:28:40] One thing just to add then, I really love that line, that privacy by design and by default is really powerful, really simple, and makes complete sense when you think about it. But for companies that already have sort of systems set up, they've already been doing online advertising, they already have teams of people perhaps working on this. What does it mean to perhaps redesign or rethink or interject into current systems, a redesign or redefault? That's quite hard when something already exists, or at least from a mindset perspective, it can seem quite hard. 

Maciej [00:29:14] Yeah, I understand this could be hard. And I think it's a process. Even the regulators say that it's not black and white. 

You have to show that you make an effort and that you continuously improve it. It's similar with security certifications. We undergo, for example, ISO 27001 with our auditor. And each year we have to show the progress that we made in certain areas that we were may be good, but you could be better. And it's like you won’t get recertified if you're just like, OK, we did it, that's done. No, that's a process. And I think with online privacy, it's very similar. You have to show the progress. You want to get it done on day one or year one, even. But if you do this progress and you make your team aware of privacy by design, privacy by default principles, and they follow it, you change vendors from time to time, you reevaluate the relationship. And that's the time to introduce these changes. I'm against doing everything at once. Because what you pointed out, that may be damaging to the business and you don't want to do that. One point that may be also interesting to that is how people get wrong the cookie laws and let's say we shouldn't use cookies. So let's find an alternative, let's find the cookie that's tracking so we can do exactly the same, but without cookies. That's not the point. Like cookies is just one means of identification online. And there are other fingerprints or local storage, etc. And the intention of the regulations and browser vendor changes introduced with privacy protection mechanisms was not to replace one technology with another doing exactly the same, but to change the whole way we are doing online advertising and online marketing and measurement online. 

Gemma [00:31:09] And it's the way things are going, right? And I think it's that way with organizations. 

[00:31:13] It's like, you know, you just have to get on board and as you say, make that progress even if it is just small steps and doing little bits at once. But it is about moving forward at the end of the day and not putting your head in the sand, which is why it's been amazing to have you here, Maciej, on the podcast to discuss this really important topic that I'm sure for so many organizations and companies, there's still a lot to learn and a lot of improvement to be done in the space. So thank you so much for joining us on the show. 

Maciej [00:31:38] Thank you very much. 

Gemma [00:31:41] That's it for this week. Thank you so much for tuning in. You can find out more about Maciej's work and indeed, some of the broader themes we discussed today in the show notes. If you enjoyed the episode, please do take a few moments to rate and review the podcast. It really helps other people discover the show. 

[00:31:57] And don't forget to subscribe and tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. 

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