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Hidden costs

Why privacy could be the hidden cost of convenience

13th Dec 2017
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Some of the biggest deals during this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday were on smart home technology.

Social media was ablaze with price comparisons for the latest connected speakers, such as Amazon Echo, Sonos One and Google Home, and wi-fi-enabled thermostats and lights from the likes of Hive and Philips Hue.

Many consumers have become attracted to these intelligent technologies as they offer a new level of convenience and personalisation they’ve not experienced before.

While voice automated lighting, sound and heating may seem like a novelty to some, it’s just the start of a movement that will force companies operating in consumer industries to rethink how they interact with, serve and sell to their customers who are craving smarter, more intuitive experiences.

Personalised subscription

Just like the rise of online marketplaces brought hassle-free shopping and customer service to people at the touch of a button, connected technologies will instigate an era of ‘hyper-relevance’ where companies will use reams of customer data, collected from smart devices, to deliver uniquely tailored and highly customised experiences.

As artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and digital assistants become more sophisticated and mainstream, new touch points, offerings and services will emerge that intelligently anticipate and flex to their customers’ precise needs at any given time.

We’re already seeing companies take steps to achieving this reality. The emergence of subscription services, where customers set-up regular, scheduled deliveries of household goods, groceries or fashion items to their door, is just a stepping stone for what’s to come.

The online personal stylist, Stitch Fix, which promises a service that “evolves with your tastes, needs and lifestyle”, is already selecting clothing items for their customers based on a deep understanding of their personal preferences. As your tastes change, so do the style choices they pick and send to you. The Chapar offers a similar service.  

As companies gain deeper insights into what their customers are buying, when, and in what cycles, in the not too distant future they’ll be able to remove the burden of customers needing to proactively order goods altogether, and instead pre-empt what items need replenishing, and when, by using data collected from smart sensors. The entire shopping process will be technology-driven and totally effortless. Samsung is already making significant steps with its Family Hub refrigerator.

It’s not just shopping either – customer service is also in line for a shake-up. Leading companies are investing in AI to better tailor customer experience to the individual by capturing insights from interactions and continuously learning about their needs. The data can help companies anticipate future customer demands and ensure they’re prepared to deliver.

For example, a supermarket may note a customer has recently started selecting gluten-free products. It can use that insight to offer them new value through product recommendations for other items in that category, relevant offers and discounts, recipes or in-store experiences. It’s essentially a value exchange; in return for deeper insights into the customer’s world, companies can better deliver experiences, products or services the customer cares about. 

The entire shopping process will be technology-driven and totally effortless


UK consumers are actively craving more intuitive brand experiences. According to new research from Accenture Strategy, half of UK consumers are frustrated when companies fail to deliver relevant, personalised shopping experiences. Furthermore, over a quarter say they would find great value in services that intuitively learn about their needs over time to better customise product, service or content recommendations.

Today, half of UK consumers would use ‘smart-reordering’ services - where intelligent sensors in the home pre-empt when a product, such as laundry detergent, is running low and automatically re-orders it on their behalf - and nearly a third already use digital assistants. However, while the vast majority are satisfied with the experience, 42% say it starts to feel creepy when technology correctly interprets and anticipates needs.

This is the conundrum UK consumers are facing; they want better brand experiences, they get frustrated when they don’t receive them, but at the same time, they’re concerned about the privacy of their personal information. They’re don’t want companies knowing too much.

It starts to feel creepy when technology correctly interprets and anticipates needs.

Digital trust

Digital trust is a critical barrier that threatens the delivery of hyper-relevant experiences. Expectedly, a clear majority (89%) of UK consumers say that it is extremely important that companies protect the privacy of their personal information. Another 43% fear intelligent services will come to know too much about them and their family. Overall, 58% want companies to earn their trust by being more open and transparent with how their information is being used.

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance deadline looming, now is the time to address the digital trust issue, particularly as it will become increasingly challenging for companies to achieve as they look to capture new categories of customer data – such as biometric, geo-location and even genomic data – in their drive for greater relevance.

While consumer concerns may inevitably continue to rise, it’s critical that companies have strong data security and privacy measures in place, they give customers full control over their data, and are transparent with how they use it. Only then will customers feel truly satisfied and reassured that their personal information is well protected. Only then can true convenience be fully explored by brands.   

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