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Transparency as a Service Requires Role of the Consumer

Modern business conceptIf “transparency as a service” is the new buzz term in marketing, we should remember there is such a thing as bad service.

We all know the clichés: Cat food coupons when we only own dogs. Diaper offers when our children are in college. Plus-sized clothing promotions to someone who wears petites.

So now some companies are opening the vault, and inviting consumers to peek at their own data. Most recently, the company Enliken is planning to launch a transparency platform, to be used by data collectors, which will give consumers more privacy controls over the data they share with businesses. Enliken shares demographic categories, shopping categories and other data, following a trend that is being seen among other data providers.

I do like the idea of transparency as a service and exploring what the added value is for marketers and consumers. But I can’t help but think there is a role for the consumer in the process. This looks to me like a great opportunity to encourage an open dialogue and further deepen customer connections.

We certainly shouldn’t expect to do it all ourselves. Sure, marketers today are basically engineers of engagement. We’ve devised elaborate mathematical models, into which we feed historical consumer behavior, and they metabolize the information into a variety of consumer segments. In short, they analyze the behavior, they grade the data and they place the consumers into different segment models.

But for those of us who are practitioners, one question always lingers: Are we getting it right all the time or are we misreading the signals? A propensity model is just that, the likelihood that someone would fall into a certain action, class or segment. And, as pointed out in a recent column by George Anderson, editor-in-chief at RetailWire, there can be a lot of inaccuracies. He found several about himself on AboutTheData.com.

“Household information relative to number of children was off by three kids. Occupation (craftsman/blue collar) gave me a giggle especially considering when my wife and I married she was the one who brought a toolbox to the union. Political affiliation was wrong as were a couple other minor points,” he wrote.

Which takes us back to the gnawing question: What might happen if we created a more open, transparent model, one where the machines did the work but there was a supplemental conversation with the customer to ask, “Hey, did we get it right?”

Transparency as a service is like data sharing – it only serves the customer well if the customer has an active and understood role. I suspect that increased transparency of this sort could lead to improved accuracy and happier folks all around the table.

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What do you think?