Mobile Dilemmas: Letting the Consumer Lead in the Dance for Data


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One of the most difficult dances to master in the loyalty industry is that which pairs data collection with relevant rewards. It’s a tricky balance, trying to capture the information you need to better serve consumers without crossing the “creepy line.”

A great, and timely, case in point is geolocation. Mobile phones and similar GPS systems provide marketers and merchants a wealth of opportunities to better serve consumers with well-timed offers. But they have to actually deliver something of value; otherwise the consumer just feels like he or she is being stalked, not wooed.

So it’s no surprise that a recent survey by UC Berkeley Law shows most consumers are against mobile tracking and surveillance. In fact, 96 percent of the survey respondents said they didn’t think their phones should share browsing information with stores, and 79% said they would definitely not allow this kind of tracking.

I’m not surprised consumers responded in this way. Too often, when it comes to tracking consumer behavior via mobile devices, there is no perceived value exchange. Consumers just feel that someone is watching over their shoulder, not in partnership with them.

Of course, consumers deserve not only to be warned about being monitored, they should see value in how their information is being used. Marketers are obligated to show them this value, up front. In other words, let the customer lead.

Consider the mistake made by a couple of shopping centers last Christmas season, which wanted to track shoppers’ physical locations via their mobile phones. The consumer blowback was so severe that the malls quickly deep-sixed the plan, but not before losing some customers. Where was the message of value in this plan?

Due to such missteps, there is actually an expanding market out there for managing data abuse. The company PrivacyChoice recently introduced a tool that grades Facebook apps based on how they treat and protect users’ data.

Our own research of 2,000 U.S. and Canadian consumers reveals similar sentiments about the lack of value in sharing data.

* 81% of those surveyed said they think companies commonly exchange personal information without their permission

* 74% do not feel they are receiving a benefit for sharing personal information

* 88% believe companies use their personal information primarily for the company’s own benefit.

Which leads us back to the question: What would it take for consumers to consider sharing the kind of personal information mobile tracking affords? Perhaps the answer is in this response, also from our survey: 66% respondents said it would be OK if a retailer sent them a discount off their purchase that day if the shopper had first “checked in” to that retailer through a social network on their mobile device.

See the difference in that last data point? The merchant is first giving consumers some control in the transaction, by giving them the choice to check in. Then, it is offering them a relevant offer right there – delivering immediate value.

Learning how to deliver value through data is an ongoing process, especially as technologies and consumer expectation advance. Ultimately, there’s a real opportunity, but both parties – consumers and companies – will need to figure out how to fill out their dance card in a way that benefits both.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bryan Pearson
Retail and Loyalty-Marketing Executive, Best-Selling Author
With more than two decades experience developing meaningful customer relationships for some of the world’s leading companies, Bryan Pearson is an internationally recognized expert, author and speaker on customer loyalty and marketing. As former President and CEO of LoyaltyOne, a pioneer in loyalty strategies and measured marketing, he leverages the knowledge of 120 million customer relationships over 20 years to create relevant communications and enhanced shopper experiences. Bryan is author of the bestselling book The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information into Customer Intimacy


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