Accenture Interactive’s 2019 Consumer Pulse Survey, See People, Not Patterns, gained insight from 8,000 consumers in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S. about the responsible usage of consumer data and the right strategies to avoid forcing invasive data collection methods onto reluctant users. 

Inventive vs. Invasive

It’s no secret that invasive brand promotion can be a double edge sword. On the one side, it undoubtedly increases visibility. On the other, it often makes users feel uncomfortable, annoyed or interrupted. This can greatly damage the coveted bond of trust brands strive to forge with their consumers. In fact, Accenture’s survey found that almost 69% of consumers would cut ties with a brand if data usage became too invasive. 

Glen Hartman, head of Accenture Interactive North America and global digital marketing lead, explains the need to draw a clear line between inventive and invasive. The whole point is to collect data in a responsible manner, with respect for the consumer’s preferences. In other words, by making a conversation and asking  for consent rather than, well, spying on them.

“The good news is there is a big opportunity for brands to take a thoughtful approach to data and create an impactful customer experience while doing so, building trust and an emotional connection customers crave,” says Hartman. 

There’s been a conversation going on for many years about transparency and accountability in the industry. Brands have to be open and straightforward about what they ask from customers, if only to serve them better. Accenture’s research shows a staggering 73% of consumers would gladly share information with their favorite brands as long as they’re honest about how they’ll put it to use. It’s a reassuring way of recognizing consumers’ concerns. 

Don’t be a [total] stranger

Perhaps the best way to understand their misgivings is to compare data collection to human interactions with strangers. “People expect someone they’ve never met not to recognize them and the same logic applies digitally”, explains the report. “Forward-thinking brands are finding ways to approximate how humans behave, in a humane and ethical way.”

No one would expect anyone to simply hand out information about their personal behavior to a total stranger. It’s no different for brands. “Many consumers report that brands don’t know them well enough to serve them in a way that makes them feel special”, reads the report. “When brands seem to know too much —and act on that knowledge— they can inadvertently lose consumers’ trust.” 

More than 75% of consumers say they are uncomfortable with data collection via microphone or voice assistants while 51% said invasive ads are on the rise. Nearly 30% of consumers said a brand had gotten “too personal”, and 69% of these consumers would stop doing business with a brand or reconsider their relationship because of this. Colloquially put, flatly avoid creepy tactics. 

What to do?

So, how can brands collect data in a respectful, consensual manner? Accenture Interactive recommends: 

  • Using fresh opt-in alternatives to track users, such as encouraging consumers to authenticate on websites and mobile applications;
  • Bringing ad tech contracts in-house to access more effective, transparent data collection methods; and
  • Building the data architecture of enterprise systems in a way that reflects current regulations.

This last point is crucial to observe, as regulators are increasing oversight and enforcement: Between May 2018 and January 2019, more than 140,000 complaints and queries were filed with authorities. Stay aware of privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) to ensure an optimal bilateral experience. 

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Janet has worked as editor and translator since 2013. After graduating with honors when receiving her Bachelor's Degree in English literature, she began working as a book reviewer for Expansión, the leading business magazine in Mexico. She has also worked as editor of young adult literature for publishing houses like Planeta and Penguin, and she's the author of a book of short stories. She's in the process of getting her MA in English at McGill University. Her interests include arts, good food, and her 8 pets.

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