New privacy regulations, lockdowns by big players like Apple and Google, and general consumer skepticism about sharing personal data are having profound impacts on audience understanding. Our traditional ways of collecting behavioral data, such as cookies, VPNs, fingerprinting and more, are quickly becoming obsolete. This perfect storm doesn’t have to halt your behavioral data strategy in its tracks.
When I joined the research industry back in the early 2000s, online and mobile surveys were not yet widespread. The industry was wrought with inefficiencies that technology could solve if implemented properly - much like today - but on a simpler scale. Over the years, my career has been focused on building tech to address common issues surrounding data collection and engagement, and I’ve been lucky enough to see the industry evolve rapidly. Today’s challenges surrounding behavioral data comprise one chapter in a long story. The right technology and solutions can still deliver the information we need. But first, we need to change our mindset around consumer data itself.
A better way to build consumer understanding
The two sides of market research generally are not in sync. Respondents want one thing, and researchers want another. No one is happy with the results, as respondents struggle with clunky surveys, disqualifications, endless routing and low incentives, and researchers struggle with the age-old problems of data quality. Let’s break down how to change this dynamic.
We’ve found that there’s a “magic zone” for gaining valuable consumer data, and it is built on two key things: transparency (trust) and privacy (respect). When we shift away from overused buzzwords and put them in the light of what people are really seeking when they ask for these things, we can start to change the data-sharing dynamic. When you build trust and respect people’s privacy, you can create an environment that facilitates honest sharing. This is the first step in the path toward gathering elusive behavioral data.
Then, when you present the community that already trusts you with a request for behavioral data sharing, they tend to respond. Instead of relying on recall, solutions that facilitate the collection of real behavioral data with a “show me, don't tell me” approach can be very effective - especially if the user interface is fast, easy and pays well. Data can be aggregated to provide actionable insights for companies that really want to understand how people are behaving on their mobile devices. With an approach like this, you can uncover fascinating data about how exactly people are engaging with apps, in-app purchase behaviors, app prioritization, notifications data and much more.
Changing the consumer data collection paradigm
The truth is that the shifts in the privacy landscape are necessary, and they’re not going anywhere. Consumers asked for more protections, more transparency and better interactions, and governments (a la GDPR) and the business world (a la Google’s elimination of cookies) reacted. Now, what we need to do as researchers is to examine some of the fundamentals of how we operate and build an ecosystem where individuals actually want to share their data. People are tired of bad survey experiences, and they are tired of their data being mined under nebulous circumstances. They just want to understand exactly how their data is being used, and they want to have a good experience.
In light of the current privacy landscape, new solutions are being introduced on a regular basis to help brands and marketers continue to gain holistic views of their audiences – with more complete data sets. The hard-to-get behavioral data is a critical part of this picture. By throwing out old ways of thinking and prioritizing what consumers want – trust and respect – we can start to overcome today’s data collection challenges in ways that make sense for everyone involved.