Changing Dimensions of Customer Privacy and Digital Trust

After years in which they have been using increasing amounts of data to build highly customized user experiences, today’s companies are facing a moment of truth in which customer privacy and the ability to safeguard all the data at their disposal is now being questioned. Yes, customers want hyper-relevant digital experiences, but they also want to have digital trust that their data is not being shared with third parties or otherwise being compromised.

Those were just two of themes that emerged from the 13th annual Accenture Strategy Global Consumer Pulse Research report. The wide-ranging Accenture report was global in nature, covering the changing attitudes and expectations of more than 25,000 consumers around the world, including 2,000 in the United States. In doing so, the report provides a comprehensive snapshot look at how both consumers and the companies that sell to them are responding to the changing dimensions of customer privacy and digital trust.

The economic costs of failing to protect customer privacy

According to Accenture, companies are having a difficult time balancing the issues of customization and customer privacy. For example, 41 percent of consumers switched companies last year due to either poor personalization or a lack of digital trust. All in all, Accenture pegs the economic cost at nearly $756 billion in terms of lost customers due to eroding consumer trust.

Obviously, companies that get the balance right between hyper-personalization and customer privacy will win the digital trust of their customers – and perhaps woo over new customers as well. Thus, as Accenture notes in another report (“Put Your Trust in Hyper-Relevance”), the ball is in the court of the world’s largest companies: Can they deliver meaningful, contextual experiences to their customers without encroaching on customer privacy?

How much customization do customers really need or want?

Yet, as Accenture notes, consumers are hardly shying away from hyper-relevant, contextual experiences online. If anything, they are showing increased appetite for these types of customer experiences. As long as these experiences make their lives easier or more meaningful, anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of customers would embrace them.

For example, consider the fact that 43 percent of U.S. consumers are more likely to shop with companies that always personalize their experiences. Another 47 percent of consumers expect specialized treatment for being a good customer. And a surprisingly high number – 48 percent – would use smart re-ordering services triggered by sensors around the home that would automatically order items that were out of stock (such as a gallon of milk in the refrigerator).

However, there is a cautionary tale in here about customer privacy. Take the example of smart digital assistants – both the type that you use on your smartphone and the types like Google Home or Amazon Echo. Nearly one-third (36 percent) of U.S. consumers say they are already using digital assistants to make their lives easier and more convenient. However, a similarly high percentage (40 percent) said that it can be “creepy” when the customization goes too far. And 43 percent of U.S. consumers said they fear a day when all their intelligent devices and services will simply know too much about them and their daily behaviors.

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