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In Between the Numbers – Transparency, Privacy, and Another New Normal for Retail

April 3, 2011
at 9:33 am PST

750 Million, and 0.00002%

My mother, bless her soul, would have never thought it was proper.

There’s perhaps no better evidence that we live in a transparent, open-the-kimono digital world than the news that 750 million photos were uploaded to Facebook over this past New Year’s celebration weekend.   (That’s an average of 4,330 per second.)

One might guess that a good number of the 750M were not images you’d want to show Mom, let alone include with your latest job application.

Place that in the mind blender with some other food for thought:  L. Gordon Crovitz’  column “The 0.00002% Privacy Solution” in the March 28 Wall Street Journal.   Mr. Crovitz  brings to our attention the results to date of a advertising industry service called TRUSTe, which enables consumers (through a click-through icon to online advertisements) to learn more about how they are being tracked – and to opt out.

According to Mr. Crovitz, a recent study by DoubleVerify found that of five billion recent advertising impressions, only 100,000 clicked to learn more – and only about 1,000 opted out.  An opt-out rate of 0.00002%.

Seven-hundred and fifty million.   Two out of one hundred thousand.  

Don Tapscott called it early in his 2008 book Grown Up Digital.   We’re  entered an era  where transparency – the sharing of previously private information, and the expectation that previously private information will be shared – is the normative rule of the realm.   Where personal data privacy concerns (beyond those of credit card theft) are increasingly thrown to the wind. 

What does it mean for retailers?  First of all, it’s time to recognize that the era of  information asymmetry  — that we, the retailers,  know more than consumers, and thus enjoy an advantage that translates into gross margin  — has ended.   It’s a tie game now in the information wars, and the tie-breaker goes to the shopper.

Second, transparency is increasingly equated with authenticity.  Credibility.    Believability.  Be transparent in your sourcing, manufacturing, sustainability, pricing, say consumers, and we might friend you.   Maintain the old opacity?  We’ll go somewhere else.   You (and your brand) just don’t get it.

Welcome to yet another new normal.

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