The new merchants of data

Lawrence Jones

Thursday 25 January 2018

Real-time data, processed and presented in simple and effective ways, represents a clear goal for CIOs: the better the data, the better business decisions. But who owns this data? And more importantly, who should profit from its value?

As we increasingly live our lives online, we create huge amounts of data. This data is the world’s most valuable resource, worth more than all the world’s oil reserves combined.

Until now, people have been willing to give away their data freely for the use of email programmes, social media platforms and a more personalised shopping experience. However, as we become more aware of the value of our data, things are starting to change.

Author and Microsoft employee Jaron Lanier discusses the concept of data equity in a recent Harvard Business Review article. He argues that in the future, businesses will need to be more open with their customers, sharing the value of their data with them, or they may risk losing them as customers.

Risk and reward

Big data mining for product feedback is one way that companies can use data to improve their business and personalise their customer offering. It’s helping businesses shift from the current customer loyalty model that Deloitte claims has become ‘tired’.

The global consultancy suggests that businesses focus on using data to provide a mixture of personalisation, relevance, exclusivity and engagement for their customers.

Data-driven customer insights are changing the relationship between consumers and business, according to Dan Somers, CEO at Warwick Analytics. “I think consumers are beginning to understand that their data has value,” he says.

Simon Bennett, Principal Consultant at Assure APM, agrees that customers are beginning to understand the way that their information is being monitored. “Consumers are starting to understand the concept of ‘digital footprint’,” he says. “With this comes with an awareness of data privacy and security.”

Somers and Bennett both agree that customers are more concerned with how that data is stored than how it’s used. “Their immediate priority is still privacy and security,” Somers says.

It’s something that legislators are aware of too, with GDPR posing questions for businesses of all sizes.

Data security

As IoT devices add exponentially more information to the growing data pile, processing this data for customer insights is a clear opportunity to develop a competitive advantage. Gartner claims it could help business improve profits by up to 15 per cent.

“The value is derived by understanding people’s wants and needs and getting those products in front of them,” Bennett says. Customers are unlikely to be paid for their data, but the payoff will involve businesses proactively rewarding customers for their complicity, giving them privileged access to new deals and products.

“Ultimately it’s going to be a question of building much stronger relationships for the benefit of the consumer, not just the business,” Somers says.

Those who do this most effectively will succeed, Somers claims: “It’s the businesses who really sweat their data and offer the most beneficial rewards to their consumers who will excel through customer loyalty.”

According to Somers, while some companies are experts at mining data, the average UK business struggles to generate value from it, which means they could be missing out on big opportunities.

Ultimately, as the way data is processed and used evolves, businesses will need to look at new ways of rewarding their customers for it.

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