Earn Consumers' Trust to Realise Gains from Social Media Investments, Companies Told

Big data has the potential to increase revenues, market share, and margins, but most of these opportunities require the use of sensitive consumer information. Organisations that create trust regarding their use of such information should be able to increase the amount of consumer data they can access by at least five to ten times in most countries, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimates in a new report, The Trust Advantage: How to Win with Big Data, being released today.


The resulting torrent of newly available data could shift market shares and accelerate innovation. This performance boost represents what BCG calls the “trust advantage.”


“Unlocking value from big data has generated a great deal of buzz in the C-suite,” says John Rose, a senior partner and the report’s lead author. “But often left out of the discussion is how to gain access to the information—much of it sensitive personal data about real people—in the first place.”


Without consumer trust in how this information is used, most of the trillions of dollars of social and economic value promised from big data will not be realised. In fact, the report estimates that two-thirds of the total value potential stands to be lost if stakeholders fail to establish a trusted flow of personal data.

To help organisations develop differentiated strategies for navigating the landscape of trust in the age of

big data, BCG surveyed nearly 10,000 consumers 18 years and older in 12 developed and developing countries

on the topic, as part of its larger 2013 Global Consumer Sentiment Survey. Among the top findings:

• Companies’ starting point matters. Consumers are more than twice as concerned about the practices of financial institutions, social-media and search-engines companies, and government entities than they are about those of branded manufacturers, carmakers, airlines and hotels, cable providers, and retailers that offer loyalty cards.

• Consumers want data privacy. For 75 percent of consumers in most countries, the privacy of personal data remains a top issue. Citizens of all the countries surveyed consider credit card information, financial data, information about children, and health and genetic information to be the most sensitive.

• Millennials are no less private online than other generations. Seventy-one percent of younger Millennials (those aged 18 to 24) in the U.S., for example, report that one should be cautious about sharing personal information online. While this level of concern is lower than that of other generations, it is still remarkably high, and in a range consistent with other generations.


• Consumers are willing to allow the use of personal data for multiple purposes if, and only if, organisations are careful stewards of this information. An average of only 7 percent of global consumers reported that they are comfortable with information about them being used outside of the original purpose for which it was gathered. This changes to 54 percent if they trust that other uses will not embarrass them, damage their interests, or otherwise harm them.


For global organisations to ensure that they have the greatest possible access to data about people, consumers will need to trust that information about them will be well stewarded, the report concludes.  Stewardship means that data will be used for the purposes allowed—and only for those purposes.

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