This post is based on insights from the Sailthru ebook “2015 Marketing Technology Predictions: The Future of Marketing” available for download now.

Remember those loyalty cards that used to clutter up your wallet? If you bought 10 coffees – and collected 10 punches on a card to prove it – you’d get one free. There was little exchange of data, outside of when you redeemed your coffee card, but you thought that it was a fair exchange (if you thought of it at all).

Today’s version of loyalty cards are found on smartphones and tablets and are saved into every consumer’s browser. What’s also different is that today’s consumers know that when they interact with a brand there’s a whole lot more information being transferred to various databases – much more than just how many drinks they’ve purchased. Data is known about everything, including what coffee they like to drink, what time of day they prefer to drink it, average order value, and more.

The “exchange rate” on that digital currency is about to change. 2015 is the year that consumers will expect to reap the benefits of allowing brands to collect and use their personal information and click-stream data. What brands can bet on is that the particulars of what each person wants will vary, but in the grand scheme of things, all consumers are really looking for the same thing: a better experience.

Until recently, most brands have not had the technological infrastructure to offer experiences  much more sophisticated than a free coffee (not that there’s anything wrong with free coffee). The relational databases used by many brands to collect and store customer information often can’t handle more than three months’ worth of structured data, making it difficult (to put it nicely) to engage with a customer across every device and store location. So when it comes to gauging the long-term impact of marketing actions on customers, most brands have been handicapped in their ability to offer a better experience in exchange for data.

Another way to think about this is to consider the beans that go into those coffees that you’re now paying for with your iPhone. Since 1988, some coffee beans have been certified as Fair Trade. Customers know that when they buy Fair Trade coffee, there’s something that goes on in the background. Most don’t know, and don’t want to know, every facet of what Fair Trade means. But they understand that whatever the details, Fair Trade is thoughtful and respectful of producers. Customers appreciate thoughtfulness and respect. Marketers should be able to treat them that way, too, and have their brand enjoy that preferential place in consumers’ hearts as a result – aka loyalty.

Right now, the relationship between brands and consumers is one-sided. That is destined to change in the coming year as the conversation shifts from just a concern over privacy to a question of what value your brand delivers to consumers in return for the data that you gather over time.

Neil Capel, CEO & Founder