Businesses must “Get Human” with our data!

The days are surely numbered for Retailers and Financial Services who design services with, about, and entirely reliant upon our data solely from their perspective. Many use the term “customer centric” wildly to describe services that collect and monetise our data inefficiently. The concept of ‘Reward’ for data needs a radical rethink. Businesses must reimagine the services they offer for a future world in which consumers take back control.

The Rebel Futures team works many businesses which work with customer data; indeed most businesses today collect, use and monetise customer data in one way or another. And in light of this, we as consumers know that our data is valuable after all retailers are continually bombarding us with rewards and offers.  But businesses must be careful how they use customer data, in a world in which everyone 'has a piece of us’; could there be a backlash? Might consumers get fed up with their data being used in this way?

Data collection is historically  about Quantity not Quality

The ways in which businesses collect personal data is not human centric to begin with. It’s automated - large amounts of data is created by consumers just by interacting with services, it is not given over actively by customers; rather it it is collected in clandestine ways from all sorts of sources. 

Businesses take Liberties with customer data

Once we’ve agreed our data can be collected, many businesses go further than customers might expect to get their information. For example, Facebook Page likes allow businesses a greater level of detail than they may otherwise have. A customer might be ok with the concept but not realise that a company is using their Facebook profile data plus their shopping data and then selling that to third parties. There’s no ongoing approval, and for the most part a total lack of transparency.

Data Analysis by most is Rudimentary

As a consumer you might think that businesses know too much about you personally. We’d argue it differently. Businesses have the ability to derive all sorts of information about you but they don’t. They don’t have time, or the capability, and they don’t have the inclination to really get to know you. They just want to know enough to be able to monetise in some small way and this usually manifests disappointingly - they send you an offer, usually just a money off coupon.

Everyone knows Something

Lots of businesses know lots of overlapping things about us. A retailer might know what I buy in which supermarket and when - and what I’ve bought in which supermarkets and when for the last ten years (via a loyalty scheme). A bank might also know what supermarkets I’ve shopped at for the last twenty years and how much I’ve spent. A mobile network operator might know which supermarkets I’ve visited and when, and how long I spent there.  And they might know what purchases I research via my phone and at which retailer websites. And they might also know all about my me from Facebook. So might the loyalty programme, and also the bank. Someone might be able to pull all of this data together.

Customers aren’t rewarded anywhere near enough for their data

There’s nothing wrong with collecting and using data as long as the customers are in on it too. As long as they benefit. We’d argue that rewards need a radical rethink. If everyone collects data, and everyone offers rewards in the shape of a tiny bit of money back, or offers for products a customer doesn’t really want, that’s no reward at all. What it means for customers is that they’re bombarded by lazy / incompetent retailers and rewards programmes. Spam has become part of everyday life, and the effect is that customers don’t trust the businesses that send them this stuff.

Can data be used too well?

But is the point at which customers feel that what is derived about them, their behaviour, and their future intent becomes scary is the point at which they’ll become even more unhappy? The dilemma is that businesses would be cautious about using data too well - about being too good at predicting what someone might want.  Maybe, but we’re a long way off from that. 

The New Rewards

We’ll write more about new rewards shortly as this is a huge area, but customers (in UK, USA and Europe at least) are seeing all sorts of new rewards from the Financial Services sector. Suddenly their banks are offering them money back and surprise gifts. Sounds too good to be true?

What is for sure is that the banks (that customers might want to entirely trust) are dancing with shopper data and with becoming shopper platforms / loyalty schemes themselves. At some point the differentiator will have to be that a business does not offer a loyalty / rewards programme, that they do not collect customer data, that they do not sell it to third parties and that they do not send customers money off coupons they don’t want. Sounds like a radical strategy? Well, it’s worked ok for Apple.

Getting Human: Moving from B2C to B&C

What does getting human mean? By “getting human” we mean being truly customer centric. Customer centricity is not about holding focus groups and coercing people into agreeing they might like a better deal or a particular product feature. It is not about saying things like ’human centric design gives us a competitive advantage’, or about doing what you’ve always done but via a mobile app so you can send push notifications and collect location data! It is about understanding the relationships between business and customer is changing. It is about understanding you need to work with the people you serve, rather than imaging they serve you. It is about putting people first.

We’ll write more abut his in future articles but we feel there is a change happening and that future proofed businesses are moving from ‘B2C’ “Business To Customer”  (a directional transaction) to B&C (working together as part of an ecosystem). Businesses that understand they have to work with customers in a mutually beneficial relationship will succeed.

The rest will not.

A BAD Business:

  • Is greedy: And collects too much data.
  • Is inefficient: It uses hardly any of the data it has collected.
  • Is incompetent: It uses data badly e.g. to deliver segmented rather than personalised marketing messages.
  • Is selfish: It just uses data to assist in selling existing products.
  • Is stupid: Misses the point that data could be used to continually design / improve / iterate the business; from the ground up.
  • Is rude: So that customers do not have any access or control over how their data is used.

A Human Centric Business:

  • Is open: About the fact it wishes to work with customers / people / humans.
  • Is polite: And gets permission.
  • Is sensible: Doesn’t just get ‘permission’, but approval, buy-in and collaboration, along the way.
  • Is respectful: It gathers the right data (and nothing else)
  • Is efficient: And uses it well.
  • Is clever: Using customer data to inform its future business and product strategy
  • Is future proofed: Builds a data capability that can adapt over time.