Want data? Learn to share

In case you missed it live under a rock, privacy and use of consumer data has been rearing up as a major issue in our increasing digital world. Recently I wrote about how troubling I find it that marketers are treating control over data use as something that’s being taken away from us. (I argue it was never ours to begin with.)

I feel like we all know the drill. Consumer data use needs to be an exchange of cost (sharing data about yourself) and benefit (personalised content, more applicable advertising.) And while we don’t ever expect consumers to fully understand the technology like we do, it is important they understand it well enough to not be thoroughly creeped out. The reason targeted advertising is so creepy? People genuinely believe there is some central repository of data that knows everything about them. (After all, how could the same ad follow them around so many websites?!) So yes, education is absolutely critical.

However, if we really want consumers to understand the benefit of data use, we need to start providing data to help our customers make better decisions. Not just use it for our own business.

If companies can 1) Provide data to benefit customers, 2) Help customers understand this is being powered by data and how their data contributes and 3) Be transparent about how they’re using it (transparency = less scary!) we can move towards a more educated discussion of privacy and data use.

So what are some examples of using data to benefit customers?

  • Recommendations: The Amazon-esque “customers who are interested in X are looked at Y” is a classic use of data to benefit shoppers.
  • Valuation and forecasts: For example, automotive valuation companies like Kelley Blue Book or home buying sites like Zillow use historical data and predictive models to better inform consumers in the buying process.
  • Credit scores: Companies like Credit Karma use customer’s own information to provide credit scores and help customers make better financial decisions.
  • Editor and user ratings: Companies like CNet inform customers via their editorial reviews, and a wealth of sites like Amazon and Newegg provide user ratings to help inform buying decisions.
  • Price alerts: Alerting customers to a shift in a data point (price) can help customers find the best deal – whether it be on merchandise, travel or more.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and I don’t think we’ve truly begun to explore how this explosion of data can benefit consumers and businesses alike. The problem with the current privacy debate is that there’s everything in it for businesses, and not nearly enough benefit for the consumer.

What can your company do to share the benefit of your data with your customers?

3 thoughts on “Want data? Learn to share

  1. Data is the new currency. We “Pay” for “free” services all the time with our data. Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, etc. And the vast majority of the public is clueless about this. Every now and then like this week they get upset at a service like Instagram for trying to make a little $, but in a week or so they forget and begin pumping more of their data into some other service. The trick is finding a service or benefit like you listed above that make people comfortable with giving up this data.

  2. Couldn’t agree more, Rudi. And the issue is, it’s sort of like spending on a credit card vs. handing over hard cash, where customers don’t really quite understand what they’re exchanging. (If they did, would we have a nation with the credit card debt issues that we do?)

  3. Michelle, since I was a teenager I thought that knowledge should be given freely. I love your thoughts on sharing data with consumers to benefit them as well as business. I also love to teach and coach my clients so they will understand how digital marketing works and make better business decisions.

    Congratulations on your new adventure at Web Analytics Demystified!


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