The power and value of personalization

This year's Microsoft Digital Trends report highlights how brands can get Canadians to use digital services and products.

More Canadians are aware of how their data is being collected by brands, but encouraging them to actually use the digital tools that do so depends on if brands are able to prove its value through personal experiences, according to the 2015 Digital Trends report from Microsoft Canada.

Microsoft partnered with Research Now to survey 13,200 respondents globally, including 1,200 in Canada, in November. Alyson Gausby, consumer insights lead at Microsoft Canada, will be presenting the findings today at the Dx3 conference during a session at 3 p.m. She tells strategy the results from this year’s survey point to something the company has dubbed the “value pyramid” when it comes to digital services.

At the bottom are those who are just beginning to use a service and still have concerns about their data being collected and how it is being used. Consumers move up the pyramid as they see the value in their data being used and increase how much they integrate the service with their daily lives.

However, this also means brands have to keep finding news ways to provide more benefit to encourage further usage and integration.

“It’s [about] moving people up so they get to a point where they are actively looking for tech to be more integrated into their lives and make things easier in a connected world,” Gausby says. “From there, the trends speak to what brands can then do when they have access to this permission data and the experiences consumers will then start to look for.”

Looking at the data-collection part of the equation, 77% of Canadians are aware they are able to exchange their data for rewards and benefits, up from 68% last year, half of Canadians do not know how to do so. Similarly, the number of Canadians using personal tracking tools has risen from 43% last year to 62% this year. But the amount of people fully utilizing the tools remains small: only 16% use them to optimize and set goals, compared to 14% last year. The remaining 43% either rarely use them after they’ve been downloaded, or use them but don’t get around to doing anything with the data they collect.

Gausby says increasing usership of these tools involves some improvement on the user experience front, such as using data visualization or allowing users to aggregate different data streams, like comparing sleep data with a personal schedule, so they might be able to draw their own insights. The benefit of sharing data with a brand needs to be overt and continuously reinforced, the report says.

When it comes to ways to show that benefit, 49% of respondents said they were more likely to pay attention to messages from a brand if it’s done at the right time and in the right context, with 43% expecting brands to know when and where that is. One third also expect brands to know them and help them discover new products or services that fit their needs.

“You need to meet certain requirements in order to have consumers proactively share data with brands, to then create these seamless, personalized experiences that we see consumers want,” Gausby says.

Looking at personalization, 46% of Canadians say they are more likely to purchase from a company that allows them to personalize and shape the product or service, with 44% saying they’re more likely to interact with brands when using specialized digital services. Creating these experiences also means finding ways to integrate with the non-digital side of Canadians’ lives, as 45% say it is important for technology to enable experiences in the real world, with 37% saying they were more likely to engage with digital experiences that are well-integrated with the physical world. Interest in tech that blurs the line between the digital and non-digital worlds has increased from 31% to 36%.

Making sure the consumer has a sense of control is not just important when it comes to personalizing experiences, but also with the data being used, as 76% say it is still important for them to be able to edit or delete what is available to companies or what lives online.

“Canadians are worried that companies can benefit from their information, that’s nothing new,” Gausby says. “When we look at the right to identity, it’s less about them being anonymous online and more about controlling their personal narrative and how they are projected to the world.”

From a global perspective, the results coming out of Canada are in line with much of the western world, although Gausby says developing markets, such as Brazil and China, have expressed higher growth and interest in these digital trends.

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