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Expert Consumer Research from Covance Food Solutions

The Rise of the Personal Data Economy

[Big Ideas Series] Three insights into the rise of the personal data economy and its impact on customers in the future.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Tuomas Syrjänen will be speaking at IIeX Europe (February 19-20 in Amsterdam). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX EU. Click here to learn more.

How much simpler life would be if we could be in two or three places at once, effortlessly fulfilling all the myriad expectations of our hectic lives. Take IIeX 2038: rather than attending in person, we could send a digital version of ourselves to network, present and then feedback learnings to our actual physical self, back home.

This scenario sounds far-fetched, yet the rise of the personal digital economy is centred around monetising our virtual selves, the ever-increasing cloud of personal data that accompanies our every digital interaction. Some call this digital version of ourselves Meta Me, at my company we prefer “Exo Human”. Whichever name you choose, one thing is clear: the soaring volume and value of personal data has led the World Economic Forum to describe it as the “new asset class” – on a par with oil.

Here are three insights into the personal data economy that I will be delving into -in person – at my IIeX presentation on February 20:

1. Consumers become suppliers

Currently, the personal data economy is really about David versus Goliath. The Goliaths are platform businesses like Google and Facebook which are in the middle of massive data flows about consumers’ movements, location and decisions; data flows that are crying out to be monetised. We are already seeing Facebook and Google harvesting, cleansing and summarising data and developing insights which they can then package and sell. Questions arise over how transparent and accountable big companies are about how they collect and profit from consumers’ personal data. The Davids, meanwhile, are individual consumers who, thanks to legislation such as GDPR and campaigning initiatives like DECODE are being educated and empowered to take more control over their personal data, including demanding a slice of its commercial value. Looking ahead, we can expect consumers – especially millennials – to start to behave more like suppliers, demanding to trade with brands on commercial terms, to secure the correct market value for handing over their personal data.

2. Consumer advocates will thrive

Mediating between David and Goliath – individual consumers and big businesses – is already delivering a slew of opportunities for new start-ups, ranging from services such as Citizenme which helps consumers collect, store and obtain valuable insights from their data; to Billmonitor, which analyses consumer phone bills and helps them select contracts individually tailored to their needs. Whether it’s educating consumers about managing and monetising their data, helping consumers to trade their data or offering insurance policies to protect consumers’ digital selves and data, brokering the data gulf between consumers and brands is set to become big business.

3. Creative collaborations will help offset commoditisation

As AI-driven price comparison services continuously switch consumers to the best deals, brands face a race to the bottom on price as consumer price promiscuity increasingly trumps brand loyalty.  On the plus side, sectors will become more fluid as barriers such as fixed mobile phone contracts disappear. Data portability and open APIs will allow brands from different sectors to merge and cross reference consumer data – always with consumers’ full knowledge and permission – to create new, more personalised ways of adding value. Imagine authorising your personal banking chatbot to access your Instagram likes/ Google travel searches and your calendar to suggest holidays tailored to your budget, tastes and availability.

This is just a taster of the issues I will be covering in my IIeX presentation – I hope to see you there. For further reading on the personal data economy check out the following:

  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Business: A No-Nonsense Guide to Data Driven Technologies Paperback – 28 May 2017 by Steven Finlay 
  • Profiting from the Data Economy: Understanding the Roles of Consumers, Innovators and Regulators in a Data-Driven World (FT Press Analytics) Hardcover – 20 Oct 2014 by David A. Schweidel 

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Tuomas Syrjänen

Tuomas Syrjänen

CEO & Co-Founder, Futurice