What does the concept of sharing mean to you? If you share a bottle of wine with a friend, it is probably in the belief that you both get to enjoy it and form a stronger bond as a result. Sharing a ride to work or passing on a book you have enjoyed reading are all ways in which as humans we connect with each other.
When it comes to sharing data, consumers almost certainly have similar feelings. Putting up photos on a social network, whether of your breakfast or a friend’s wedding, are part of that desire to extend the personal into the social. The feedback which results builds a sense of self-worth and validation that can’t be gained by keeping those things to yourself.
Consumers have grown increasingly aware that the exchange of data is essential for the smooth running of modern society - 47 per cent of those surveyed by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) last year agreed this was the case, up from 38 per cent in 2012. That is a positive - and pragmatic - view of how technology is changing the way our world operates.
So does the same apply when consumers share their personal information with commercial organisations? According to 73% of consumers in the same survey, sharing data online is simply part of the modern economy which they acknowledge. Again, this was a rise from 65% in 2012.
A powerful argument for consumers to share their data is the value which they get in return via better prices, offers, access to content and so forth. From price comparison sites to on-demand video, the customer experience is significantly improved when a business knows who the individual is and what interests them and why. As a consequence, the DMA found 80 per cent of consumers held the view that personal data is their property and they should be able to trade it for better offers and services.
But before becoming complacent that the data value exchange is a done deal, consider some of the concerns that are bubbling just below the surface.
During 2015, commentary on the issues around data sharing moved beyond the confines of the marketing press as they have become increasingly discussed across the mainstream consumer media.
Consent and permissions are a valuable asset, but one which can be eroded rapidly if abused. Why else did just 8% of consumers in the DMA survey consider that they got the better deal from the exchange of their personal data, whereas 80% thought businesses got most of the benefit?
This particular topic created much debate and discussion at Royal Mail Data Services’ recent Executive Roundtable attended by marketing and data leaders from brand names in the retail, finance, and media sectors among others.
The overall sentiment is that organisations must be completely transparent with consumers about why their personal information is being used and what will happen to it once it’s been handed over. Equally, brands must always clearly explain the value they will deliver in return for this data.
As marketers, we will need to become much clearer about the “data deal” we’re making with our customers if both sides are to feel that they have truly benefitted from it.
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