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The Journal Gazette

Monday, July 17, 2017 1:00 am

Data helps online buys

Every day, people use data to influence their decision making – from where to go for dinner, to selecting stocks in which they should invest, to where to live.

Every Google search we perform, every Yelp review read or written, each item of clothing, houseware or electronic device we put in our virtual cart, is another data point companies can use to personalize our experience with their brands.

Despite all the data at their disposal, it seems many brands still don’t fully understand what consumers want from them in terms of products or services or how to best engage with their end buyer. A recent survey from cloud and big data integration company Talend shows 88 percent of information technology leaders believe their organization truly understands its customers, while only 61 percent of consumers believe companies understand their needs.

This begs the question: How do we differentiate between those brands that are using our data the right way, versus those that have a long way to go? Second, how do we help the brands we love understand us better without sacrificing our privacy?

Understand which data to share. Think about your favorite shopping app or website. Does it know which brands you prefer? What about your shoe size? Does it have your ZIP code stored for shipping estimates? Does it make appropriate recommendations? The strongest relationships in life work both ways, so if you want a brand to know what you want from them, perhaps it’s time to share a little. Taking five minutes to fill out some basic profile information in your “preferences” could, at the very least, save you time on future shopping excursions and might even lead to a surprise find.

Use data to get the best deals. When you’re shopping online, you can quickly compare prices for the exact item you want to purchase across multiple vendors, and, if you have time to wait, be alerted should the item go on sale. The best example is travel. There seems to be a never-ending list of websites available for booking flights and hotels, but booking the first flight you see without shopping around is rarely going to get you the best deal. 

Know where to draw the line. At the end of the day, privacy is still important, and it’s prudent not to share too much personal information. Think critically about which data is going to be absolutely necessary to enhance your experience with the companies you rely on. For example, it’s not necessary to share your contact list, your geolocation or (if you’re on a mobile device) access to your camera if you’re using a music or financial app. Some brands ask for too much, and it’s up to each individual to determine which data makes sense to share with each brand and what doesn’t. For example, don’t be too quick to provide broad access to an app you’ve just downloaded. Also, as painful as it may be, do read the privacy policy of the sites you frequent and understand how they use and protect the personal information they collect on you.

– Brandpoint