Data tide turns in consumers’ favour

It’s not only businesses that are obsessed with how to make the most of their data. Consumers are becoming more and more interested in measuring their own lives and acting on the results.

Michael

The trend has become known as the ‘quantified self’, and as a Marketing Week article this week reports, a host of new companies and apps are arriving on the scene that give individuals greater insight than ever before about everything from their health to their energy consumption. Consumers aren’t satisfied with letting the brands they deal with manage their data – they want to be able to understand their own habits to help them make better decisions.

In some business sectors, these ideas have been around a while. Energy smart meters are set to become commonplace soon and health clubs have been letting users track their own fitness-related data for several years.

But mood tracking, as provided by the Moodpanda mobile and web apps, is just one application that could signal the start of a new type of consumer behaviour.

At the time of writing, the world’s mood was 5.3 on a 10-point scale, London was “a little unhappy” and men were happier than women, according to an analysis of Moodpanda’s users. On Marketing Week’s behalf, the company also assessed the mood of its users worldwide during the Olympics, finding that people perked up substantially when they were talking about the Games, although the general level of happiness remained relatively flat (see graph, below).

Moodpanda Olympic mood

Research company Future Foundation has produced a new report showing significant interest in self-measurement, particularly among young adults. The idea of saving money on energy, by using a service that measures usage and automatically chooses the cheapest tariff, is already something that 80 per cent of people say they would want, if it were available.

Broader interest in measuring all aspects of life can be expected to increase, and it creates opportunities but also dilemmas for marketers. Being able to offer services where consumers can track their behaviour could be a unique selling point but consumers are also likely to demand more control over their own data and unrestricted, convenient access to it at all times of the day and night.

Businesses already holding data that could be useful to the self-quantifying consumer are unlikely to want to give up their exclusive commercial rights to it, when they have collected it at their own cost. Once information is released, there’s no way of locking it back up. Many will also worry that they would only be hastening the flight of customers to their competitors by showing them they could be getting a better deal.

But more self-measurement apps are coming and there are low barriers to entry – all that is required is software capable of recording the data consumers want to keep, and of comparing offerings across a marketplace. That means third parties can start letting cats out of bags and skeletons out of closets at will, because consumers will be able to work out how good a deal they are getting, even without their current provider’s help.

The tide of personal data has turned in the consumer’s favour. Marketers must learn to ride the wave and not try to hold it back.

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