Treat consumers’ data with respect, and deliver value in exchange for it

Global Consumer Insights Survey 2019

Rethinking consumer data and privacy

Recently, people have been learning in painful detail what digital platforms, application developers, analytics firms and others have been doing with their personal information — often without their knowledge or consent. The revelations are sparking an outcry, and the constant drumbeat of news stories about data leaks, along with the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union, has sensitised consumers to the issue of privacy like never before.

People are demanding greater control over their data and more transparency about what businesses are collecting, how they’re sharing it and how it’s being used. There have even been calls to compensate consumers for the data they share. Businesses need to prepare for what could be a seismic shift in data-collection practices.


Mixed feelings about data access

In some ways, consumers appear to be ambivalent about sharing their data. Many people eagerly divulge vast quantities of personal information on social media but also bristle at the idea of being profiled based on that information. Amid all the mixed signals, how are you supposed to respond if you’re a consumer-facing company?

To some extent, it depends on the situation and the experience people get in exchange for sharing. In PwC’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Survey, 74% of respondents said they’d be comfortable with a product that collates all of their healthcare information in one place, which would require distributing private information across provider networks. Health information is one of the most sensitive types of data consumers own, yet they seem willing to forgo privacy for convenience and personalisation.

To help people feel more comfortable with sharing their information, take a lesson from startups. Entice consumers to make their data available to you by enlisting them as co-developers of pilot programs for products and services in which they have a vested interest. Customers’ participation and feedback will help to improve a product over time.

Patrick de Zeeuw, CEO and co-founder of Startupbootcamp, a network of startup and scale-up accelerators, talked with PwC in December 2018 about the role of data in creating better customer experiences. “What the good startups are really good at is running hundreds or thousands of experiments on- and offline to get the data so they can really understand different customers’ problems and expectations. They can then determine which customers to target with which messaging, at what moment, where and how.”


Closing the digital trust gap

Some consumer-facing businesses seem to be having an easier time getting people to offer their data than others. PwC’s survey shows that one-third (33%) of consumers are making purchases online daily or weekly, exchanging their personal and financial information for goods and services.

Building an authentic relationship with people might also help you earn their trust. Canon USA, for instance, has connected with consumers through nature-photography-themed events. The company creates opportunities at these events for people to get something — such as the chance to have one of their photographs used in Canon’s advertising — in exchange for sharing their data. “We explain our relationship clearly, at multiple levels, in every document where we’re asking people to share data,” said Matt Gorman, Canon USA’s director of sales development, e-commerce and strategy, in a January 2019 interview with PwC. “Then we associate benefits with their agreement to opt in.”

Yet even as companies encourage consumers to entrust them with their data, only 53% include proactive management of cyber and privacy risks in their digital transformation plans “fully from the start,” according to PwC’s 2018 Digital Trust Insights.

There are actions you can take now to strengthen digital trust. You can include cybersecurity and privacy personnel in digital transformation projects from day one. You can establish corporate policies governing access to IT assets and data and enforce the policies at all levels of the company. You can implement data-governance programs that determine where sensitive data resides, its value to the business and how to protect it. And you can manage risks for the whole data lifecycle, including creation, storage, usage, sharing, archiving and destruction.


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Oz Ozturk

Oz Ozturk

Global Advisory Consumer Markets Leader, Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7703 563 054

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