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Customer Engagement

Consumers Wary of Digital Personalization

New study shows most consumers have problem with the ethics of digital tracking and data-driven customization

Personalization and customized customer experiences stand as a linchpin to many digital transformation strategies. However, enterprises must tread carefully because in this realm there may be dragons—namely in the form of diminished customer trust. A new survey shows that consumers are increasingly giving digital personalization and corporate data collection the side eye.

The results exemplify how digital transformation can be a double-edged sword for customer engagement. Data-led initiatives provide enterprises the fuel they need to power the customization of sales, marketing, and customer service to segments and individual consumers. But, at the same time, the more personal and comprehensive data collection grows, so do the risks and consequences for data breaches and ethical misfires along the way.

More distressingly, it appears that customer sentiment is starting to sour with regard to the indiscriminate data land grab we’re seeing in consumer-focused industries.

Conducted among more than 6,300 consumers, the “RSA Data Privacy & Security Survey 2019” shows a startling 71 percent of consumers don’t think providing more data to businesses leads to better products. That number is on the rise by a couple of percentage points since last year. What’s more, only 48 percent of consumers said there are ethical ways that companies can use their personal information.

The study pinpointed some particular sore spots related to digital personalization and consumer tracking. Approximately 60 percent of respondents said wearable devices are creepy, and only 36 percent think it is ethical to track devices or locations to identify unauthorized access. Approximately 68 percent of consumers said tracking online activity to tailor advertising is unethical, and 75 percent believe it’s unethical to make recommendations based on purchase or browsing history.

With such a large sample size, these study should raise eyebrows at data-led organizations. Clearly a backlash is evident, and organizations need to be mindful in the coming years that issues around data ownership are becoming increasingly nuanced. These issues will likely continue to mount as data-led decisioning morphs into AI-led automation, particularly as the pervasive and combined use of internet tracking and internet of things sensors makes it possible to track consumers across all of the physical and online domains of their lives.

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