A vision for Market Research in an Information Age

I have recently written about the need to re-centre the internet around people. About the need to better manage the flows of personal data. Based on this current context, we at citizenme, believe a great starting point is the market research industry.

We would not define citizenme as a market research company. citizenme is a Personal Information Management Service (PIMS). We act on behalf of digital citizens. Our aim is to help people take control of their personal data and generate value from it.

We are part of a new wave of innovation that focuses on re-balancing the data economy. Innovation that empowers people with their personal data. Ctrl Shift, a leading consultancy in this area, estimate the potential size of the market for PIMS as £16.5bn. This is just in the UK alone. The idea of PIMS have been around for a few years now. Businesses small and large are recognising the increasing opportunity and also the huge value they can create for citizens.

Value can sometimes be a vague term so I’ll aim to define it here. The value citizenme offer its users is threefold:

  1. Monetary value, fair cash rewards in exchange for personal data.
  2. Altruistic value, donating time, personal data and personal insights to charities and not-for-profit organisations.
  3. Emotional value, this is the most important of the three. This is where citizenme provide personal insights. We help people understand what their data says about them.

We believe that the market research industry is a great starting point for PIMS like citizenme. There are three key reasons:

  1. Trust, market researchers are the trusted mediators between people and businesses.
  2. Privacy, the core activity of market research is anonymised. Privacy is the default.
  3. Value exchange, most market research is incentivised with cash rewards. Therefore, the value exchange for personal information already exists.

Market research is after all, an information industry in an information age. It generates huge amounts of data that can benefit citizens and businesses. Whilst there are great synergies between market research and PIMS, the approach is different.

Currently, businesses are looking for solutions that integrate a variety of data sets to obtain a single-customer view. The standard approach is to integrate data sets at an organisational level. This process can be tricky, time-consuming and fraught with data quality issues. citizenme’s position is to integrate data around the individual not the business. This inside out approach will streamline data processing and create more accurate data in much greater depth. Furthermore, by taking this approach, there is a win win outcome for both citizens and businesses.

CONTROL = TRUST

With citizens as the data controller, brands can develop more trusted data relationships. This is important because as we move deeper into an information age, business problems will require access to increasingly sensitive personal data. In my previous post, we saw that 75% of consumers do not trust brands with their personal data. This distrust is also seeping through to the most trusted parts of the marketing wheel: market research. According to a recent GRIT report, 56% of market researchers believe the data collection process is broken. The industry runs the risk of research participants locking down and masking their identity, like we have seen with ad-blocking. The 198 million installed ad-blockers is costing the advertising industry $22 billion dollars a year according to PageFair. The market research industry must avoid a similar fate.

citizenme believe that trust can be restored. But this requires putting people in control of their data. There’s no reason for citizens to mask their identity when privacy (or even deletion) is always an option. And what’s more their data, accurate data, is generating new value for them, in the form of personal insights.

PERSONAL INSIGHTS = ENRICHED BUSINESS INSIGHTS

When citizens take control of their personal data, there needs to be a purpose. An emotional purpose that goes beyond financial rewards. This involves helping people better understand what their data says about them. To be able to generate personal insights we need to look at the personal data stack.

First, we need a repository for personal data. Services like citizenme will allow people to store a copy of their survey responses and data from their personal APIs in one central place. It is important that this place is not a centralised database. Instead personal data needs to reside on a personal cloud. When personal data is decentralised and distributed back out to people it improves both security and privacy. It improves security because hackers no longer have one central target. Personal privacy is improved because citizens have control over who sees what data.

Secondly we need to overlay personal analytics. citizenme will utilise a Bayesian neural network to connect all the different data points in a citizen’s personal data store. Effectively placing machine learning in the hands of the people. Every new data set added to the data store is a new node in the network. The more data that’s added the better the personal insights.

Once we have enough data to generate personal insights there are two outcomes citizenme will offer to citizens. Firstly, there is an opportunity to exchange personal data and insights, anonymously, with businesses for cash rewards. This is part of the market research process. Secondly, and this will come later as we begin to scale, we will provide each of our users with a personal API. This means personal data and insights become portable. They can be used to help citizens make better decisions and better manage their lives. In the business world insights lead to business actions. The same should apply to people: personal insights should lead to personal outcomes. An example could be, finding your next house. Plugging your personal data into market data and open data will create new levels of personalisation. Personalisation that empowers rather than crossing the creepy line.

FAIRER REWARD = BETTER DATA

Finally, there will always be a need for a financial reward. Businesses will have access to digital citizens with verified identities and deep profiles. People and their digital identities need to be rewarded fairly. People are not commodities to be traded cheaply. They want trusted relationships, where they feel valued. Brands that engage in trusted and equitable data relationships will benefit from closer, more insightful, customer relationships.

citizenme is really excited about the value it can generate for citizens and businesses in the market research process. When people better understand themselves, businesses will better understand people.

In summary, the future of insight generation starts with people. Providing people with personal insights, empowerment and control. Then managing the flows of personal data in the “Internet of Me”.

This was first published on the CitizenMe blog here and on my personal blog >>FastForward.

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