If marketers had a drinking game, the term “data-driven” would definitely be on the list. For the last few years, it’s been a bona fide marketing buzzword. But data’s a double-edged sword.
Other marketers, your bosses, and countless articles talk about the value of data. But any time you find yourself in a room full of non-marketers, conversations around data collection have a completely different tone. Your friends and family members talk about businesses tracking and using their data with terms like “intrusive” and “scary.”
Data may be a marketing buzzword, but so are concepts like empathy and knowing your audience. And there’s a good chance your audience doesn’t love the idea of you collecting and using their data. According to one study from U Penn, 91% of people don’t think companies should be accessing their data, even if they’re getting something in return for it, like a discount.
For years, marketers have taken it as a given that more data is a good thing. Maybe it’s time to reconsider that premise. Here are four compelling reasons for your company to consider collecting less data.
1. You’re collecting (a lot) more data than you’re using.
More than half of the data collected by companies is so-called “dark data,” data that’s collected but goes unused. Some of it companies don’t even know they have, because they haven’t figured out a good way to store and view it.
So not only are you losing customer trust by collecting more data than your audience is comfortable with, you’re not even using most of what you have. How is that worth risking your relationship with customers over?
2. Having more data opens you up to more risk.
When you have more data, it means more responsibility. Especially if it’s sensitive data. While the various privacy laws being passed are changing things, businesses have tended to ask for more information than they need, and save it past the point where they have a use for it.
But if you have a lot of sensitive customer data and you’re the victim of a data breach, the consequences are bigger. Your liability is higher. The hit to your reputation is more significant. And you’ll lose the trust and loyalty of the customers who provided you the data to begin with, along with prospective customers who definitely won’t trust you now.
3. Consumers prefer data transparency.
While many consumers would rather you not access their data at all, some are OK with it as long as they know what you’re using it for. Approximately 38% in one survey said they were much more likely to trust a company if they knew they’d use their data responsibly. And 41% said they’d be more likely to buy from a company in that case, or use their services or apps.
Yet companies have mostly taken to collecting data clandestinely. For whatever reason, the culture that’s grown up around using data in marketing is one that’s sneaky—it’s something we do behind the scenes. But if customers know what data you’re collecting, what you intend to use it for, and that they have a choice in whether to supply it or not, it stops being this dark, shady thing. It becomes a transparent interaction between two entities that people start to feel they have some control over.
4. It’s a way to differentiate your brand.
Consumers have been clear in surveys about their preferences for companies that don’t over-collect and abuse their use of personal data. And yet, few companies have considered taking a stand and giving the customers what they want on this count. How many companies can you think of that have said outright they’ll collect less data, or commit to total transparency for the data they do have?
A few companies have made a move in that direction, most notably DuckDuckGo, the search engine that promises privacy, and Mozilla, the web browser that collects as little data as possible. Both make it a key part of their positioning—the reason you should choose them over the alternatives.
But generally speaking, few businesses have made a commitment to less data collection and better transparency. That makes it a rich opportunity for the right business to take a stand. It could be a smart way to make your brand more competitive.
Gain Trust and Reduce Risk
Data has its place in marketing, but the idea that more is naturally better is overdue for a reckoning. Consumers aren’t all against providing companies data in every instance. In fact, 53% say they don’t mind if they trust the company, and 46% are OK with it if they have the power to access and delete the data they provide down the line.
Giving consumers more control over the level of access you have, providing more transparency around your intentions, and taking more responsibility in how you commit to using that data go a long way.
Marketers have every reason to be more thoughtful about how we approach data in the months and years to come. Right now, consumers have little trust in us. But collecting less data and being more honest with what you do with it can be the start of changing that.
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