Why Brands Should Be Adopting Data Minimalism

Close up of young business people analyzing data using computer while working in the office
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In this guest post, Bronwyn van der Merwe, general manager of Fjord Asia Pacific speaks about the expectations around how much people’s personal data is worth has become falsely inflated, and the mystery surrounding how it’s used has become a cause for concern.

Consumer trust around data is becoming mission critical for businesses. For the last decade the hype around big data has led to many companies hoovering up as much data as possible.

However, over the past year, consumer attitudes towards data have changed rapidly as consumer data privacy issues have continued to dominate headlines.

At home, tech giants came under scrutiny with Australian consumer watchdog ACCC initiating an inquiry into digital platforms calling for a closer monitor of how consumer data is captured and used.

The government also proposed new rules that could see companies facing penalties of up to $10 million for serious breaches of the Privacy Act, up from the current $2.1 million cap.

Cracks have started to appear in the long-held assumption that consumers are happy to share data with organisations as part of a value exchange for better and more personalised products and services. Following the introduction of GDPR, companies are required to communicate to customers exactly what data they are holding on to, why they are holding onto that data and how that data is going to be used.

Online, consumers are now routinely asked for consent to share their data on cookie setting and data protection pop-ups. The spotlight has now turned to organisations to divulge how they manage, use, protect and share personal data.

To manage the ongoing issues around data, Australian organisations must make stronger moves towards transparency and minimalistic data management. This is critical to establishing trust among customers in the data collection methods used and the return benefits of improvements in products, services and resource distribution.

This trend towards ‘data minimalism’ was identified by Accenture Interactive’s design and innovation capability, Fjord, as one of the major themes to impact business and society in 2019 within its annual Fjord Trends research.

However, although minimalism and transparency sounds simple, in a world saturated with data, many businesses struggle to see where to start this journey. Fjord has outlined three guidelines for brands to create data transparency.

Set expectations, and live up to them

Companies that are now collecting and using personal data must accept the responsibility of the ever-increasing risks associated with the correct handling of that information. Since the introduction of Australia’s notifiable data breaches (NDB) scheme, 950 breaches were forced to be disclosed, obliging companies to notify all customers whose personal information was compromised.

Businesses need to become proactive in sharing data management plans with customers, empowering people to know how, where and why their data is used. Equally important, organisations must also make clear to customers what they will get in return for their personal data. Gone are the days when users would (un) willingly hand over all their information without a clear reason or payback.

Embrace ‘data minimalism’

Expect a shift from ‘data maximalism’ to ‘data minimalism’ as companies move to collect only the data they’ll need. Work towards a minimal viable data strategy and collect only what’s needed to drive the service. Businesses should closely align their data collection strategy to business objectives – collection, measurement and tailoring of services are intrinsically linked.

Companies should put clients and customers back in the power seat of managing their own data and how it is used. For example, the online platform MediaConsent, allows people suffering from cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and mental health issues to join and donate data from their social media accounts, digital health wearables such as Fitbits, and medical records, with the aim of advancing research. The platform provides consumers with full transparency by enabling customers to control exactly what data is shared, where, and with who.

Champion trust

In a recent article for Time Magazine, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that consumers should have the power to “delete their data on demand, freely, easily and online, once and for all.”

Cook has been a passionate advocate for consumers having new rights to manage their personal information, saying “Consumers shouldn’t have to tolerate another year of companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives.”

Businesses should allow people to act when data about them is incorrect, by designing for transparency and enabling people to recalibrate algorithms. Companies have an obligation to prove to their customers that what they get out of using their data doesn’t outweigh the value they get from sharing it.

Increasing consumer awareness and involvement has triggered a much greater conversation about what data privacy means. Questions on ethical behaviour will continue to be fired from government bodies and consumers alike, but for good reason.

With increasing federal regulations around data and privacy including the Consumer Data Right, Australian organisations will need to design for transparency, so that consumers can trust they’re only pursuing data that will help them improve products or services, demonstrating what’s in it for the customer, and ensuring that the data value exchange is fair.

If organisations design for transparency, they’ll rebuild trust, which proves a key differentiator for individuals deciding if their relationships with those organisations are mutually beneficial.

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