Perception is nine tenths of the law

By Daragh O Brien
May 29, 2012
16min read

I regularly tell consulting clients and learners on courses I teach that, if you are in the information management game you are really in the game of selling and ensuring trust. Ultimately, information quality is about being able to trust that the information you are providing or consuming is actually ‘fit for purpose’ for your purposes. Data Governance is about being able to trust that everyone in your organisation knows the role they need to play in delivering trusted and trustworthy information to customers, be they internal customers or external to your organisation.

And Data Protection is based on principles of trust. People give you data on trust: they trust that you aren’t going to use it nefariously. Likewise, you are trusting that they will give you information that you can trust to drive your business processes (as an aside, I often put fake data into webforms that are asking excessive questions for the purpose I’m filling in the form).

Today, the EU Commission published the 7th Edition of the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard, a report which outlines the level of integration within the EU Single Market and highlights barriers and difficulties that consumers experience when shopping in the Single Market. The findings in relation to on-line shopping were interesting in particular.

  • 69% of consumers have been subjected to unsolicited direct adverstisments and offers, up 8% on the previous study in 2010.
  • 29% cite concerns about misuse of their personal data or payment details as a reason for not shopping on-line.

Shock & Awe versus “Aw Shucks”

So. Despite there being clear legislation in place for a number of years around unsolicited direct marketing 69% of our survey pool said they had experienced it. This is explained in part by the fact that while 67% of retailers surveyed in the report said they knew where to go to get information about their legal obligations depressingly few knew what their duties where under consumer protection, with only 29% being aware of the cooling off period for on-line sales. Unfortunately the survey does not appear to have asked any questions about the understanding the retailers had of their Data Protection obligations to their customers and prospective customers. However, my experience would suggest that the 29% figure for distance selling regulation would not be far off the mark for the level of awareness of Data Protection rules amongst SME and larger retailers both on-line and in ‘bricks and mortar’.

The Takeaway: A significant number of organisations will face a culture shock when the forthcoming Data Protection Regulation comes into force. There is a big difference between knowing where to go for information about your obligations and actually being able to put it into practice it seems

Fear versus Truth

Reading on the report we find some additional stats of interest. While 29% of consumers have cited concerns about the misuse of their data, only 2% have actually experienced it. And a whopping 0% reported experiencing it from sites/retailers based in their own country.

So, the adoption of ecommerce is being hampered by FUD. The effective execution of on-line commercial strategies is being held back by the fear, uncertainty and doubt of the customers about how safe and secure their data will be and how it may be used for other purposes. How can you fight fear?

One of the key ways to fight fear is to invest in being transparent and developing a brand presence that screams “TRUST US”. That means needing to do things like:

  • Share information about who you are, how you can be contacted
  • Explain why you need certain information and what will be done with it
  • Give information about who you share information with or disclose information to and why
  • Ensuring you have adequate security controls (both physical and technical, both system-focussed and human-focussed)
  • Making sure you get appropriate consents and permissions to enage in your marketing and sales activities…(and not winding up in front of the 69% we’ve already mentioned)
  • Being up front about the cookies you are using on your site and why…

Basically… acting in a manner that is in compliance with the Data Protection rules within the EU.

Takeaway: Stop worrying about and thinking about Compliance as a barrier to your business. View it as an enabler of your business, as a brand opportunity, and as a means to get at 29% of customers who currently are nervous about doing business with you or your competitors.

The Convergence of Quality

Regular visitors to this site will probably guess what I’m going to say now. Data Protection is just one of the quality outcomes that converge in the e-commerce space. While you are thinking about how you will win the hearts and minds of the 29%, why not take some time to think about how you will make life easier and more attractive for the 100% by making it easier for them to buy from you.

Good quality data about your products and services is key to this. Being able to better support search and findability in ecommerce is important. There are documented examples of where poor quality results have lead to embarassing outputs. Being able to find the items they need quickly and easily helps build trust with your customer (that’s what one of our partners excel in by the way).

The convergence of quality in ecommerce is exactly the same as the convergence of quality in bricks and mortar. If you trust the shopkeeper, and if they stock what you want and you can find it quickly then you will return to that store. You will recommend it to your friends. The shopkeeper will make more money and higher profits.

And that’s how quality and trust impact the bottom line.

Now, as a thank you to those of you who have hung around until the end of my little essay, here’s an example of the frustration that can happen in a store if there are problems with searching for and finding the right products.

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