A national survey of over 1,000 Americans aged 18 and older from Wearables.com and The Center for Generational Kinetics indicated that consumers might feel comfortable sharing information with their favorite stores (60%) or product brands (56%), so long as they remain anonymous—and especially if they are rewarded for their contribution.
Jason Dorsey, founder and chief strategy officer at The Center for Generational Kinetics, told eMarketer that the study sought to find whether “consumers with wearables would be interested in having their data scrubbed so as to be anonymous, with no way to trace it back to one specific individual, so that other organizations could use this data, such as employers looking to reduce healthcare claim costs, government looking to understand consumer activity, etc.”
Insofar as the data is aggregated and organized across all participants, what was once personally identifiable information becomes anonymous—and in that case, consumers are happy to oblige.
Music to retailers’ ears, an International Data Corporation (IDC) study from December 2013 found those numbers to be higher among US consumers. While 53% of respondents preferred that retailers respected privacy instead of delivering relevant offers, 47% were less concerned with privacy and wanted to receive relevant offers.
If consumers are able to earn certain benefits in exchange for their personal information, all the better. One in five respondents to the Wearables.com study said they would be glad to exchange information to earn rewards every time they walked into a store. For rewards, 19% said they would receive notifications about deals while they are in a store or receive personalized product recommendations based on past searches (18%).
On social networks, consumers were happy to share which stores they visited (48%) and what they purchased online (34%). Equipped with this kind of information, brands may be able to provide shoppers with a better integrated customer experience, especially if customers sport wearable technology.
Retailers and brands representing myriad industries find wearables attractive because they can farm data that most consumers wouldn’t volunteer if asked. And it seems consumers feel comfortable with this proposition, so long as their data remains anonymous when combined with a larger pool of customer data, according to the survey. With wearables expected to grow from a $4.3 billion business into a $41.2 billion business by 2020, according to Cowen and Company, retailers can rest easy, so long as they pay heed to consumers’ preferences.
Gigya, in a survey of 2,000 US internet users, showed that consumers are willing to share information so long as the information they provide will only be used by the company they share it with (47%) or if that company has made it very clear how it will use the information (45%).
Evidence still indicates that even consumers forthcoming with their personal information worry about what retailers might do with it. A March 2014 GfK study found that 60% of US internet users, regardless of age, were more concerned about how companies protected their personal data than they were 12 months earlier. But with wearables on the rise, and the boundaries of customer privacy eroding one kernel of information at a time, retailers can use this information to provide a 360-degree customer experience, making that consumer’s sacrifice at least somewhat worth their while.