New Opportunity Cost: Privacy or Customer Experience

Privacy, eh? I don’t just know what you did last summer but I know what you’re thinking right about now! You didn’t quite realize that when you turned your Bluetooth on or signed up for Facebook, but you just went digital – where personal is the trending global service. Suddenly, the whole privacy concern shouts out!
Consumers really want their privacy intact, but when organizations learn who you are, where you dine and what you’re enjoying, it looks an awful lot like an invasion. With lucrative sales, marketing and business opportunities on the line, though, organizations are willing to take the risk with geo-location technology.
Today, where it’s important to provide customers with accurate information at the right time – geo-location and proximity-based technologies seem to nail it. Customers want the deals and get value out of them tailored to their personal preferences. Digital marketing, mobility and our social networks have revolutionized the way customer experience is treated. A general message does not matter to customers anymore – each message needs to be personalized and special!
There’s a very fine line between being useful (using the information) and being invasive and pushing more offers and notifications than the customer finds comfortable. Customers like to know about the best deals available to them but having the phone ring constantly with notifications and alerts for the user to stop and check is a bit overwhelming. I’m thinking of all brands the user has shopped from in a mall and will receive alerts from (all of them?) as he passes by or enters the mall. Does it really help him/her with the experience of shopping?
Companies employing the beacon technology assure there’s no need to worry because the only information that beacons record today are whether a customer is in close proximity to it, how long he was at this physical location and if he returned. It’s a subtle interaction with the customer when within proximity of the store.
Mothercare plans to use the beacon technology for engaging with customers rather than for promotional notifications. Mobile phones have become an all multi-purpose gadget – informant, guide, map, menu, scheduler, organizer, communicator and even a wallet. The Pregnancy and Baby equipment retailer aims to introduce the technology quite subtly so as to first make the customers comfortable, rather than plying them with offers and using their location data for invasive promotions.
The truth of the matter is that it all depends on how businesses use the technology. It’s great to have the customers aware of the offers but it would be less invasive if the in-store experience is improved using the technology. Privacy issues come into play when beacons feed customer proximity information back to a company’s analytic application, giving organizations more information in their efforts to track and record customer behavior.
Maybe it’s all to elevate customer experience, but companies need to understand that how close they need to be to not crowd the customer. Or maybe they’ve already closed into the fact that this very fine line of cozy and crowded is thinning to disappear anyway?