Marketers risk muddied data if consumers ‘go dark’

By Lucy Tesseras, Marketing Week;

The rise of sophisticated mobile communication techniques brings with it a wealth of opportunity for marketers to track consumers on the move and gain valuable insight, but fears over privacy are causing an increasing number to ‘go dark’ and block access.

The true extent of the problem isn’t yet known, particularly considering the mobile research market in general is still in its relative infancy, but if marketers don’t start to take responsibility for their actions the improper acts of a few could be detrimental to the entire industry.

To help prevent detection a number of consumers are turning to apps like Xprivacy, Ghostery and AVG PrivacyFix, which block tracking from companies they don’t trust and control permissions for data use.

But if more consumers choose to withhold their personal information the validity of any research being carried out could be affected as marketers won’t be seeing the whole picture.

In an article being published by Marketing Week this week, Jane Frost, chief executive of the Market Research Society, suggests that while businesses welcome the use of data sources such as geo-location as they allow for more targeted campaigns, continued access to this type of information is wholly reliant on trust.

Marketers have to make sure they use and store data collected through these channels in a responsible way. A marketer once told me if more businesses treated consumer data with the same level of security and respect as they do their money then everyone would be better off – and it’s true.

However, trust over data security is just one part of the equation – albeit a big part.

A more immediate concern for many consumers is trust in how marketers choose to communicate. Just because it’s possible to reach out to consumers at various points on their shopping trip doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do so.

Like most people I would welcome an offer or discount code popping up on my mobile as I enter a store but if I’m then asked to fill out a survey and provide feedback on service it could get a bit irritating – especially if I visit 10 different shops and am subject to the same treatment.

If my phone beeps 30 times in two hours it actually becomes more of an exercise in information management than a shopping trip and is a sure fire way to make people switch off from brands entirely.

If marketers are to continue to reap the benefits of data collection via mobile then limits are going to have to be set and permissions granted. Most people are happy to receive a deal and provide their opinion from time to time but if you’re the seventh retailer to attempt to make contact in the same day – regardless of the offer – it really just becomes a nuisance.