Will Trade Tracking For Deals, Consumers Signal

Consumers remain wary of behavioral tracking and want to maintain control of their data, but a new KPMG study suggests that digital users are also ready to cut a deal. The new research of Internet, mobile and cable users found 52% saying they would be willing to let their usage patterns -- and even their personal information -- be tracked by advertisers, if this resulted in free access to content or lower product costs. The study also shows that 43% are willing to receive advertising in exchange for lower fees of service.

As many privacy researchers have pointed out over the years in these studies, exactly how the questions are posed -- and which attitudes are measured --  can affect outcomes markedly. Consumers likely have a much nuanced sense of their own privacy and willingness to exchange their data for good or discounts. Metrics like these have limited utility once you realize how differently people feel about a range of categories and brands when it comes to privacy and data control. Length of relationship with a company, platform and even product category likely become variables in people’s willingness to make the data-for-value exchange with advertisers or publishers.



For instance, the equation changes when we move to mobile, where sensitivities about intrusiveness and data security escalate. So KPMG found ony 28% of respondents willing to trade receiving ad messages for lower fees on services. Not surprisingly, age affects these attitudes, with 35% of 16- to 34-year-olds willing to engage in this kind of value exchange, but only 21% of older adults.

What are people concerned about? On mobile phones especially, it is all about security, with 43% saying they are very concerned about having their credit card data intercepted, and 41% fearful of others accessing their personal information. But intrusiveness on mobile phones is also a key factor, with 40% saying they would be wary of a deal that rendered unsolicited messages. 

It's worth noting KPMG’s finding that more organized and retail-centric channels of user feedback may be more effective than scraping the social networks. For instance, when asked what kinds of content most influences their decisions to buy, 46% of respondents cite manufacturer or store customer feedback, and 35% cite manufacturer Web sites. Social networks and blogs actually trailed the rest in terms of impact.

Online shopping has become a reflex, with 42% of young adults saying they do so every day, typically for an hour. That fact alone represents a massive opportunity for data providers to demonstrate their value. If people are dedicating that much time to shopping online, then they are sophisticated searchers who understand the value of streamlining the process.

Marketers should be able to make transparent and clear offers to exchange discounts, recommendations and access for consumer data. It seems to me this is a point at which transparency pays much better than subterfuge. Consumers who are ritualizing online shopping are in the best position to understand the ways in which the data exchange can help them. An educated consumer may be data’s best customer. 

KPMG’s Consumers & Convergence study polled 9,600 consumers worldwide and several hundred in the U.S.

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