Give us our data back

Original Publishing Date: Apr 2018
Author:
Christine Ferrusi

Have you noticed that in most articles about identity, fraud, breaches, and malware that the main point is that those issues are expensive for companies? They talk about the importance of better identity management only in the context of reducing cost for the firms. Because breaches are expensive. It’s expensive to secure data, it’s expensive when a breach or other attack happens, and it’s expensive to pay fines that come from being non-compliant.

What’s missing from those articles is the impact on individuals who had data stolen. In most cases, there is a perfunctory “we’ll pay for you to monitor your credit for a year.” But if something happens and their data are used illegally, it’s still up to the individual to deal with the financial and legal impact of having identity data stolen.

Consumers today have become a lot more opinionated about who they do business with. We can see this in the media every day where people boycott companies that have social or political views that disagree with their own. Millennials are particularly likely to not just avoid companies they disagree with but also to actively seek out companies with similar views. People align themselves with companies whose brands stand for the same things they believe.

What does identity and this trend in consumer buying behavior have to do with each other? They’re combining into one phenomenon. Just as consumers have begun to see their buying choices as an extension of their identity and personal beliefs, they want companies to recognize their identities as something beyond a set of data records.

This goes beyond those little notices on websites, “your privacy is important to us.” Companies that really want to differentiate and create a new engagement level with customers need to take a proactive, innovative view of consumer identity. To do that, firms need to rethink identity and explain to their customers how that view is different than today’s “expensive to secure data record.”

Companies can win new customers and reinvent their entire market strategy by taking a more holistic approach and vulnerable approach. How? By doing several things:

  • Recognizing that customers are more than the sum of their past purchases. Think about customers’ entire lives, not just what they bought recently.
  • Give customers their data back. With the advent of big data and analytics, most firms are trying to collect more data points, not fewer. But ironically, the less data that is kept about customers — especially sensitive data — the more customers will trust that company.
  • Reuse data that customers are willing to share, rather than creating the same data over and over again. Today consumers have to give the same data over and over to each company they do business with. But with self-sovereign identity, companies can use the data from the customer’s own personal data store — protecting the customer and also making it less costly for the business to store and secure that data.

It’s a somewhat radical idea, but with the current trends in identity theft, cyber security, and activist consumers, it won’t be radical for much longer. Innovative companies will recognize this and do more to rethink their relationship with customer data to reduce friction in their buying cycle and create more loyal customers.

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