Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Eager to Sell Your Personal Data? You'll Have to Wait

Should marketers pay consumers directly to access their personal data? The idea isn’t new but it’s become more popular as people see the huge profits that Google, Facebook, and others make from using that data, as consumers become more aware of the data trade, and as blockchain technology makes low cost micro-payments a possibility.

One result is a crop of new ventures based on the concept has popped up like mushrooms – which, like mushrooms, can be hard to tell apart. I’ve been mentioning these in the CDP Institute newsletter as I spot them but only recently found time to take a closer look. It turns out that these things I’ve been lumping together actually belong to several different species. None seem to be poisonous but it’s worth sharing a field guide to help you tell them apart.

Before we get into the distinguishing features, let’s look at what these all have in common. They’re all positioned as a way for consumers to get value from their data. I’ve also bumped into a number of data marketplaces that serve traditional data owners, such as Web site publishers and compilers. They can often use some of the same technologies, including micro-payments, blockchain, and crypto-currency tokens. Some even sell personal data, especially if they’re selling ads targeted with such data. Some sell other things, such as streams from Internet of Thing devices. Examples of such marketplaces include Sonobi, Kochava, Narrative I/O, Datonics, Rublix and IOTA. Again, the big difference here is the sellers in the traditional marketplaces are data aggregators, not private individuals.

Here’s a look a half-dozen ventures I’ve lumped into the personal data marketplace category (which I suppose needs a three letter acronym of its own).

Dabbl turns out to be a new version of an old idea, which is to pay people for taking surveys. There are dozens of these: here's a list.  Dabbl confused me with a headline that said “Everyone’s profiting from your time online but you.” Payment mechanism is old-school gift cards. On the plus side: unlike most products in this list, Dabble is up and running.

Thrive pays users for sharing their data, but only in the broad sense that they are paid to fill out profiles which are exposed to advertisers when the users visit participating Web sites. The advertisers are paying Thrive; individual users aren’t deciding who sees their data or paid to grant access on a buyer-by-buyer basis. Payments are made via a crypto-token which is on sale as I write this. The ad marketplace is scheduled for launch at the end of 2018. That sequence suggests there’s at least a little cryptocurrency speculation in the mix. (Another hint: they’re based in Malta. Yet another hint: the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission won’t let you buy the tokens.)

Nucleus Vision is also in the midst of its token sale.  But they’re much more interested in discussing a propriety technology that detects mobile phones as they enter a store and shares the owner’s data using blockchain as an exchange, storage, and authorization mechanism. Store owners can then serve appropriate offers to visitors. This sounds like a lot of other products except that Nucleus’ technology does it without a mobile app. (It does apparently need some cooperation from the mobile carrier.) Rewards are paid in tokens which can be earned for store visits, by using coupons or discounts, by making purchases, or by selling data. Each retailer runs its own program, so this isn’t a marketplace where different buyers bid for each consumer’s data.  Sensors are currently running in a handful of stores and the loyalty and couponing systems are under development.

Momentum is an outgrowth of the existing MobileBridge loyalty system.  It rewards customers with yet another crypto-token (on sale in late April) for marketer-selected behaviors. Brands can play as well as retailers but it’s still the same idea: each company defines its own program and each consumer decides which programs to join. The shared token makes it easy to exchange or pool rewards across programs. The published roadmap is ambiguous but it looks like they’re at least a year away from delivering a complete system.

YourBlock gets closer to what I originally had in mind: it stores personal data (in blockchain, of course), uses the data to target offers from different companies, and lets consumers decide which offers to accept. Yep, there’s a crypto-token that will be used to give discounts. Sales started yesterday (March 12) and are set to close by April 23. Development work on the rest of the platform will start after the sale is over, with a live product due this August.

Wibson calls itself a “consumer-controlled personal data marketplace” and, indeed, they fit the archetype: users install a mobile app, grant access to their data, and then entertain offers from potential buyers to read it. Storage and sharing are based on blockchain but payments are made via points rather than a crypto-token. At least that’s how it works at the moment: in fact, Wibson has just completed its initial mobile app and you can’t download it quite yet. During the initial stage, only Wibson will be able to buy users’ data and they’ll just use it for testing. If they’ve published a schedule for further development, I can’t find it.

So, that’s our little stroll through the personal data marketplace. Less here than meets the eye, perhaps – most players offer more or less conventional loyalty programs, although they use blockchain and crypto-tokens to deliver them.  True marketplaces are still in development. But it’s still an interesting field and well worth watching. As with mushrooms, look carefully before you bite.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

State of Customer Data Platforms in Europe

The Customer Data Platform Institute will be launching its European branch later this month with a series of presentations in London, Amsterdam and Hamburg. We’ve seen considerable CDP activity in Europe – nearly one quarter of the CDPs in the Institute's latest industry update are Europe-based, several others with European roots have added a U.S. headquarters, and some of U.S.-based CDPs  have significant European business. A recent analysis of CDP Institute membership also found that one quarter of our individual members are in Europe. So what, exactly, is the state of CDP in Europe?

 It’s long been an article of faith on both sides of the Atlantic that the U.S. market is ahead of Europeans on marketing technology in general and customer data management in particular. That (plus the larger size of the U.S. market) is why so many European vendors have relocated to the U.S. This study from Econsultancy suggests the difference is overstated if it exists at all: 9% of European countries reported a highly integrated tech stack, barely under the 10% figure for North American companies. North American firms were actually more likely to report a fragmented approach (48% vs 42%), although that was only because European countries were more concentrated in the least advanced category (“little or no cloud based technology”) by 20% vs 13%.

 The assumption that cloud-based technology is synonymous with advanced martech is debatable but, then again, the survey was sponsored by Adobe.  What is clear is that European firms have generally lagged the U.S. in cloud adoption -- see, for example, this report from BARC Research.

Lower cloud use probably hasn’t directly impeded CDP deployment: although nearly all CDPs are cloud-based, a substantial number offer an on-premises option. (The ratio was seven out of 24 in the CDP Institute’s recent vendor comparison report, including nearly all of the Europe-based CDPs.) But the slower cloud adoption may be a hint of the generally slower pace of change among European IT departments, which could itself reduce deployment of CDPs.

A Salesforce survey of IT professionals supports this view. Answers to questions about leading digital transformation, being driven by customer expectations, and working closely with business units all found that U.S. IT workers are slightly but distinctly more business-oriented than their European counterparts. Interestingly, there’s a split within the European respondents: UK and Netherlands are more similar to the U.S. answers than France and Germany. I should also point out that I’ve highlighted questions where the U.S. and European answers were significantly different – there were quite a few other questions where the answers were pretty much the same.

Organizational silos outside of IT are another barrier to CDP adoption. A different Salesforce survey, this one of advertising managers, also found that North American firms are generally more integrated than their European counterparts. The critical result from a martech perspective is North American marketing and advertising departments were much more likely to collaborate on buying technology.

Then again, a Marketo survey found that European respondents (from a mix of IT, marketing, sales, and service departments) were generally more satisfied with their tools and performance, even though they lagged North Americas in slightly innovation and more clearly in strategic alignment with corporate objectives. This isn’t necessarily inconsistent with the previous results: being less integrated with other departments may free the Europeans to pursue their departmental goals more effectively, even if they’re less fully aligned with corporate objectives. Other surveys have given similar results: people are generally happier with technology when they buy it for themselves.

Not surprisingly, one area where the Europeans are clearly ahead in preparation for GDPR: a Spiceworks survey at the start of this year found that 56% of European companies had allocated funds for compliance compared with just 31% of U.S. companies. (Almost half the U.S. respondents believe GDPR wouldn’t affect them, even though GDPR applies globally.) While the result clearly relates to the fact that GDPR is a European Union regulation, it may also reflect a generally higher interest in privacy among European consumers: to take one example, ad blocking is much more common in Europe than the U.S. That’s good news for CDP vendors, since GDPR has emerged as one of the primary use cases.

On the other hand, a survey from Aspect found that U.S. consumers are generally more demanding than Europeans about customer service: they care more about having a choice of service channels, are more willing to pay extra for good service and are quicker to stop buying after a poor experience. This is probably bad news for European CDP vendors, since unified customer data is a foundation for modern customer service.

In sum, things really are a bit different in Europe. Integration, the primary CDP use case, is lagging compared to the U.S. So it makes sense that CDP adoption is also lagging.  But GDPR may be changing the equation and consumer attitudes are certainly adding external pressure.  The need for CDP is growing and we hope the CDP Institute’s European operations will make it a little easier for European companies find right solutions.