What is the purpose of market research? To gain a deeper understanding of the audience in order to make products and communications that are more desirable and relevant to them. However, the limitation with market research is the fact that it’s only selecting a small sample group; it works in a controlled environment and doesn’t account for our human imperfections. This requirement of people’s time and mental exertion would be financially compensated.
Data capture on the other hand, which for brands has the same objectives as traditional market research, often asks very little of people, as little as clicking ‘Accept’ at the bottom of reams of terms and conditions. Indeed it is often information of seemingly little personal value. But how much is little? What is little worth?
The first thing to make clear is the fact that privacy and data are not synonymous. You can share your data with brands without compromising your privacy. I strongly believe that it is the brand’s responsibility to ensure that the data [you have so kindly shared with them] remains safe. Fear that the limited information you can provide will somehow open the portal to evil brand mind control is fruit loops.
Even hacking and spying fears are, in my opinion, mostly unfounded. Aside from wanting your bank details (high-value data), hackers tend not to be stalkers. The fact is; if it’s of no financial gain (i.e. you’re not Jennifer Lawrence), the bad guys have no interest in you as an individual. I believe that, what I see as an irrational fear comes down to people’s over-inflated sense of self-importance.
It may be a sweeping statement but it seems that a lot of the concerns surrounding sharing personal information lie with older generations. The sense that there’s no such thing as a free lunch implies that whatever you’re exchanging must be worth something, even though in your pocket, it’s worthless. Or maybe they’re just more private people generally but that feels more like fluff than fact.
The importance of ethics and transparency is far from lost on Millennials; the feeling that something is mutually beneficial is of great importance, even if they are less guarded when it comes to sharing.
Transparency is key for all business-to-people relationships in this day and age. It’s through transparency that trust is built and this is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Without trust, you cannot relax and be truly happy. In a brand sense, this means that you don’t have to be worrying about what may or may not be going on and the brand can continue to occupy the tiny fraction of brain space that it does, possibly wrapped in slightly warmer sentiment.
Balance of Exchange
Transparency extends to clarity around what you will be getting in exchange for your information. Exchanging information before buying something online is the norm. Often, having a good reason for needing the information is the strongest pre-requisite to sharing, especially when it comes to low-value data like contact information.
The question that brands seem to have presumed the answer to is: Is targeted content (Google Now) enough of an incentive? Does it give people the social currency they require to part with their browsing history and other data gleaned from the digital detritus of modern life? Or would a financial incentive drive more accurate customer data?
In the age old adage of making things people want, not making people want things, I would argue that the most effective exchanges take place when brands can guarantee the best information at the right time and place in return, à la Citymapper. This, or simply giving people the power to affect change. Financial drivers, especially for low-value data, are likely to result in a high volume of inaccurate or irrelevant data.
The fact is that we attach different levels of value to different sets of data. The commercial value of our data only exists when the people sailing the sea that we’re creating are able to understand the data. We’re only able to see this understanding when they find insights and use these insights to communicate more effectively.
If something purportedly has no value to you in your hands but could lead to the greater good, why would you not?