Getting to know you, getting to know ALL about you

Seamless personalisation is what we all want, but is giving up our data too high a price? Ross Fobian, CEO of ResponseTap, discusses.

personalisation and data

Controversy around the use of personal data is rarely out of the headlines. From the recent cybersecurity furore surrounding the development of the NHS Covid-19 track and trace app, to embarrassing data breaches leaving millions of personal records open to abuse, the issue of how much consumers are willing to give away in exchange for a seamless service is contentious.

As every web user (and in particular every marketer) knows, GDPR has scuppered the UX of many a website. And while some customers have an understanding of what the ‘Allow all cookies’ pop up window means, many of them still feel conflicted about clicking it, or simply have no idea what they’re agreeing to but just want it to go away.

Stuck between a cookie and a hard place

A recent study by Salesforce showed that 81% of consumers want companies to understand them better, and 52% will switch brands if they don’t get a personalised experience. Customers know that their personal data can be used to make suggestions for what they might like or inform them when things they’re interested in are on sale. It’s not hard to understand why customers like personalisation; a personalised online experience is the equivalent of having a shop only stock things you want to buy – so what’s the hesitation?

Another study by SAS found that 73% of consumers said their concerns about personal data privacy were growing, with the main reasons being data leaks and the potential for misuse. Recent, very public scandals, along with the efforts of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang to put more focus on the importance of controlling personal data, mean that as much as consumers are aware of the benefits, they are also conscious of the dangers of indiscriminately giving out their personal data. This creates a clear conflict; consumers want to share their personal data for a better experience, but don’t necessarily trust that companies will handle it properly.

Difference of opinion on the importance of data

Even within these two seemingly contradicting sentiments wanting companies to know what you want and not misusing your data there’s a huge spectrum of opinion about the extent of data worth handing over. There are those who believe that their data will only be misused; those who put tape over their laptop cameras, believing someone is watching, or those who shrink in horror at the idea of Alexa listening in on everything they say.

On the other side are those who couldn’t care less, “let them listen in, let them see every site I look at, if it gives me a personalised experience”. And in between a thousand shades of consumer with varying degrees of what data they want to provide and how it should be used. How can you possibly please the entire range of opinion? The solution might land in a space that has benefits for both companies and consumers, with businesses able to provide a personalised experience, and customers safe in the knowledge their data is not being misused.

The best for both worlds

A major part of the data problem is the way that personal data is collected. Every company asks for consent at a very granular level, which makes it impossible for people to read and understand everything they are agreeing to. If customers are to have greater faith in the intentions of companies asking for their data, the process of data collection, exactly what people are clicking ‘allow’ to and what data they are giving away, needs to be more transparent.

A reform of how we think about personal data would be beneficial to companies as well as consumers. A standardisation of what (and how) personal data is collected and what it is allowed to be used for would simplify the customer experience, as well as take away the headache for businesses. The milelong list of how their data will be used, all described in legal and technical jargon, is confusing for customers, and for businesses the current regulations often entitle them to data they have no interest in or use for.

Simplifying the system would mean that businesses could target specific data sets that would help inform their personalisation, rather than having to wade through reams of data for each customer to try and find what they’re looking for.

Personal data isn’t some flash in the pan, but a powerful tool

Making personal data more understandable for customers and companies keeps customers informed and in control, and gives companies a powerful tool to improve the customer experience to boot. But if you’re asking your customers to give away their personal data, the reward needs to be more than just sending them an email on their birthday.

Learning more about customers can help to tailor a business’s direction, noticing trends within groups of customers as well as with individuals, and minimising miscommunication or misfires. That’s got to be better for everyone

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