Check out the latest blog entry from Callum Saunders, Senior Planner, on redressing the value exchange...
Much ado has been made about Britain’s new five-pound note, with debates ranging from the cynical (“It feels like Monopoly money!”) to the downright stupid (“Let’s see if it’s really indestructible!”). However, it’s a different form of currency that is arguably having an even bigger impact on consumer society: transactions using the currency of YOUR social data and digital footprint..
Earlier this year, insurer Admiral sought to launch an app that used Facebook as a social login granting them access to scan younger motorists’ posts. The premise behind this virtual vetting was to assess people’s safety as a driver and potentially offer subsequent discounts to those deemed as ‘less risky’.
Facebook blocked these plans in early November due to their platform policy: applying to application developers, this places strict limits on how data obtained from Facebook can be used, specifically, “to make decisions about eligibility, including whether to approve or reject an application or how much interest to charge on a loan”.
Admiral’s plans were by no means the first, and inevitably, will not be the last. Businesses are taking more and more of these data points to define consumer behaviour and make decisions about whether they want to do business with certain consumer profiles, or not.
In a digitally-connected society where we divulge more of our lives through data than ever before, is it inevitable that consumers’ social and personal data will eventually be used as currency for transactions?
A Consumer World Full of Possibilities
This type of activity is already happening. Vitality is already using exercise data to reward customers, offering an iWatch for a discounted price if they remain active with Vitality. And this is just the beginning. Free yourself from the shackles of legal, privacy and ethical debates for one moment, to consider the world of possibilities that contextual social data could provide to us as consumers:
- Food delivery – festival or big night out? Imagine an enticing discount for a hot takeaway
- Gym bunny? Why not share your biometric data in exchange for sports gear or healthy eating promotions?
- Holiday companies – how long has it been since the last Instagram photo from a beach (hotdogs or legs) – time to offer a discounted holiday…
The future of social data exchange will certainly provide some very tangible benefits to consumers and companies alike. But is this all too good to be true? And do all consumers actually want to receive ever-more tailored solutions? Momentum’s recent ‘We Know Modern Shoppers’ research study highlighted one subset of shoppers who actively seek to disconnect from digital when shopping: “I’m on my computer all day: the last thing I want to do is shop online.”
The examples above show that data truly can be a force for good, but with companies invariably pursuing their own agenda, who is policing the access to such intimate data and, indeed, how it’s used? And is this data-led utopia something that consumers actually want?
Data as Value Exchange
From Tesco Clubcard to insurance companies vetting our credit scores, brands looking into our data is nothing new. But with more and more of us putting in ever-more personal data into mobile devices, tools, and platforms, the digital picture that companies can paint of our lives has moved from indicative into full-blown HD. Can any of us honestly be shocked that brands not only have access to, but are utilising, it?
As personal data submission becomes ever-more pervasive, have we shifted beyond the realms of Big Brother, to an economy where we actively want to utilise our data as part of a value exchange? If we live as good citizens, is it in fact a welcome privilege to receive a discount on our car insurance? If we don a wearable fitness device and allow health providers to monitor this in return for discounted services, is this smart connected living?
“As car insurance for young people is so expensive it’s good to see companies trying new ways to solve this big problem.” – so speaks a younger driver in our team. But while we can see the benefits, a deeper dive into the issue demonstrates some flaws in this process.
Social Identity vs Real Identity
One of the biggest issues remains the type of data that we share. While we submit more data than ever, this still only reflects certain elements of a human life. And how much of this is constructed?
The general consensus is that many of the things we post on Facebook do not necessarily represent our ‘real’ personas (something fascinating in itself), from content and clicks – even to the language that we use. With so many of using these once-social channels to in fact ‘broadcast’ a certain online persona to impress others, we need to proceed with caution. In fact, it could be unreliable at both ends of the spectrum, making people appear more credible online than they are in real life.
Are we more likely to share our experiences in Tenerife or Tesco? Cocktails or cat food? Taking our partners out, or taking the bins out? From photos to check-ins, we amplify the glamorous, not the dull, yet it’s the mundane and the everyday that arguably paint a truer picture of our selves, and indeed, the real opportunities for brands and businesses to sell us relevant products and services.
If social rhetoric is not an accurate representation of our selves, should brands treat this social data with a heavy caveat of caution, or even discard it altogether?
There’s an old adage that if you’re not paying for something, you’re the product being sold. And the pervasive omnipresence of free social, digital and mobile tools has created mass consumer awareness – and acceptance – of our status as data commodities.
But as we approach 2017, we all know the value of our personal data. There’s no doubt that we’re fast approaching a tipping point, where brands, companies and organisations will have to start reciprocating the value exchange into meaningful consumer transactions.
The real question is not when we will be able to use our data as social currency, but how. Brands need to tread lightly to begin with, and strike the right balance, identifying what data they truly value, and what they are willing to part with in exchange. Only then will we start to see what the true possibilities could be.