Customers will increasingly have the right and the ability to control their own data. Ticking “Yes, accept all cookies” might be the go-to choice for many now, while scrolling through cookie options to understand what accepting all necessary cookies entails, feels like a chore. The follow-on question is “Necessary for whom?”. If buyers are unhappy, they'll withhold data, which will complicate sales and marketing. At the Dun & Bradstreet 2022 Power of Data event, a theme that came up over and over again was that many business are failing to prepare for the future. Business resilience – being able to survive or deflect challenges - can only be built by trying to foresee change. Customers are increasingly showing a preference for new digital journeys. Businesses looking to join customers on those journeys must satisfy their needs.
The pandemic brought up issues of data privacy in several respects, not least in countries, such as South Korea, that decided to track residents to identify infection hot spots. While the aim was to curb the spread of COVID-19, the lack of an opt-out option illustrated that data can be collected under a kind of duress. Where that data was stored and how it would be used were, at the time, questions for the future. As customers get more savvy, so too must companies. Especially now – while data is suffering from a bad reputation.
There’s been a constant slow drip of worrying news about the use of data over the past few years. For example, Cambridge Analytica and its influence over Brexit, and the social-media algorithms fueling polarisation and weaponising propaganda during the pandemic.
The good uses of data – from improved health to simplified service provision – stand in the shadow of reports on the bad. A quick look at the tech news pages every week will demonstrate that the word “trust” (or lack of it) comes up again and again.
At the Power of Data event, Future Today Institute CEO Amy Webb brought up several examples of consumers being able to control the storage, dissemination and usage of their own data – including SOLID, a specification that lets people store their data in decentralised data stores called pods, which function as a kind of secure personal web server. She means that this really shifts the balance of who controls the data and what it’s used for. There are also new regulations afoot in the world which are way more stringent than General Data Protection.
Developments such as these are game changing. And for companies to get their customers to willingly share information about their lives with them comes down to what Webb calls “data trust.” Data is first and foremost a tool. Consumers are increasingly paying attention to who is using it and for what purpose and withholding information when they feel it won’t be secure. To be resilient, companies cannot afford to abuse data trust because customers will vote with their feet.
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