By Demet Dayanch, Seawave Media staff writer,
Consumer lifestyle surveys have been used for some time to gather consumer data for marketing purposes. With the growth of the internet consumer data is now more than ever before easier to access, often without the potential consumers knowledge.
How is consumer data being accessed through the web?
There are many ways that this is happening. One of the fastest growing trends in the past 5 years has been the growth of social media sites. On average, 70% of adults are connected in someway to a social media site. That’s a massive amount.
If you think about the kind of data that is required to join these sites you have information that companies can use and turn into consumer data – potential consumers can be identified through profile information like age, gender, profession, hobbies, income, etc.
Data mining – a process whereby various information is analyzed and formulated into a summary of ‘useful information’ which can then be utilised by companies are all the rage. The data collected transforms into consumer data whereby companies can identify potential consumers.
Social media sites have become a big part of the development of the way consumer data is being collected and utilised by companies.
A data mining company function is to turn web behaviour, searches, chatter etc into a behavioural pattern. What this translates as is a web profile for identifying potential consumers – this becomes consumer data.
What you search on the internet, who you talk to, and what you say reveals a web personality image. The simple profile of age, gender etc are taken to another level. It’s a cardboard cut out compared to an animation. There are more dimensions. If you have a potential consumers personality profile you basically have more information on them. This kind of consumer data becomes a big asset for companies. Not only for tracking purposes but to hit consumers with products and services that may interest them. Or maybe not…and this is where the backlash starts.
Has the collection of consumer data through the net crossed the privacy line?
On a personal note, I am kind of torn between answering yes and no. In one sense I am bothered by the fact that there is a behavioural profile on me but less bothered that the information used is being used for marketing purposes. Having grown up in a society where marketing has always been present I am used to it. What does bother me is that I have no idea what this behavioural profile looks like and have no control over it. My web behaviour, translates to a personality profile which may not reflect who I am. And to be honest I don’t like this. But, you see the two are intrinsically linked since the information gathered becomes consumer data.
Although I have no objection to marketing as an industry I am a little put out by the fact that I do feel bombarded. Previously, any consumer data related to me was hidden. I had no idea that my details were being collected and used by companies who then sold it onto third parties. Maybe I am old fashioned but even though cold calls from consumer lifestyle survey companies might have been a little annoying, at least I had a choice about whether I responded or not. If I chose to fill out a form where my details were recorded, it was my choice, often because I would get something out of it like a discount shopping card. Seems fair I guess. I do wonder however, how much more money they are making rather than I am saving. Personally I would prefer to be paid for my data. If it worked on a commission basis, I would probably be onto a nice little earner. Can you imagine if everytime your consumer data was sold you got a nice little wager out of it? Cool. You have the control and knowledge about who has your data and what it is being used for, and you get paid for it. Now this sounds like a better deal than a shopping discount card.
That’s just one aspect – it’s a control thing and why shouldn’t I have more control about information gathered on me and used as consumer data for companies to market products and services to me.
And as mentioned, if my consumer data is such an asset why shouldn’t I be paid for it? It’s kind of insulting to assume that I am getting anything out of it.
Now with the web tracking and data mining trend I am not benefiting in anyway. Really I am not. I have never ever clicked on an ad that has popped up on my screen. So what if I once searched for latex gloves for a research project. Doesn’t mean I want to buy them! And yet there it is – the ad for latex gloves.
Is the drive for the collection of consumer data on the web having adverse effects we are unaware of?
Seriously I wonder if the amount of information we are being bombarded with is having a negative impact on us. Is too much unnecessary information toxic? A recent report by cited that 62.5% of web users wish they could filter out the flood of data that comes their way on the net. That’s not a figure to take lightly.
The same report reported that an astonishing 42% of web users were connected to the internet from the time they woke up until the time they went to bed. Now that’s a lot of time and a massive opportunity for both consumer lifestyle survey companies to gather information and as a result for the third party buyers of consumer data to market their goods and services.
My question is: Are we heading for a crash? – Whatever goes up must come down…