Monday 3 October 2016 7:00 am

Data bargaining chips: Consumers know more about their personal data than you think

We are in the midst of a personal data gold rush, driven by the dominance of advertising as the primary source of revenue for most online publishers.

Whether purchasing something or simply browsing, every action we make creates a digital footprint, and every step we takes creates a plethora of valuable information about how we live.

Consumer awareness of how personal data is used is growing, and marketers need to stay ahead. With data, it’s often said that “if you’re not paying, you’re likely the product”, but consumers don’t always see what they get in return for helping companies turn a profit. Many are asking themselves: “what’s in it for me?”


Some are already taking steps to control and monetise their personal data through a third party – in a sense, holding marketers to ransom. One such platform is Citizenme, which “enables people to gather personal information about themselves and use it on their own terms”, says chief executive StJohn Deakins. “There is immense value waiting to be tapped into. The personal data that we imagine is out there is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Despite the growing awareness of data and a rebellion by some, it seems that rather than rejecting data, consumers are holding marketers to account to improve their digital lives. New research from SAS suggests that a new generation has emerged, acutely aware of the value of its consumer capital and the benefits it can bring to them.

The report, Analytics for the Future: The New Data Generation, found that some 69 per cent of millennials view their own personal information as “bargaining chips” to get a better deal for themselves – such as purposefully abandoning their shopping basket at checkout to benefit from retailer re-targeting.

This so-called “Data Generation” controls their personal data without ever seeing it. They know that marketers are profiting off their digital presence, and expect hyper-personal insight into every aspect of their lives in return. They want their habits, preferences and moods to be taken into account, so that predictive analytics can enhance their experience online.

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Consumers are using data like personal bargaining chips to get a better service (Source: Getty)

First Party Data

How then, can marketers appease this new generation of data-aware consumers? Lindsay McEwan, vice president at Tealium, says that trust and transparency are important, but thinks that the answer lies in ensuring, and maintaining, relevance through using first-party data.

“Power is shifting – marketers who cannot get a grip on real time first party data control will inevitably lose out to smaller organisations that are doing it properly”, he says. Rather than the behaviour of lookalikes that occurred weeks or months ago, real-time first-party data offers the insights and control retailers need to recognise, relate, and respond to customers in more relevant and meaningful ways.

If marketers fail to adapt, McEwan thinks they’ll “end up with a data situation similar to what we have now: irrelevant products based on previous behaviour that diminish the value of data in any transaction”.

Consumer awareness of the value of their personal data will continue to grow, and as it does they will become increasingly expectant of something in return. Marketers cannot expect them to be as unlearned and laissez-faire as in the past – and nor should they. Every gold rush ends eventually, and for the sake of credibility, trust, and the evolution of data as an enabler, marketers need to give something back.


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