How do data privacy changes affect eCommerce?

Unprecedented levels of volatility, uncertainty, and complexity shape our today’s life. The COVID-19 pandemic changes how we work, travel, communicate, shop, and learn. Digital technologies have given people tremendous transparency, choice, and convenience, yet they exposed us to plenty of threats. Security issues will have a huge impact on which of the new digital habits are likely to become a mainstay of our daily routines.

Although the privacy watchdogs worldwide have somewhat relaxed their approach to privacy because of the epidemiological risks counting on new technologies and big data to help combat the outbreak of the pandemic. Did these changes affect customers’ data-privacy mindset?

Attitudes to privacy are changing

Data is changing the way we live. Many of us use wearable technologies to track and share data with external servers. If a chip in your armband gives you broader data about the sport, then why not try it out? Yet why not use it to gather and share more information about much more than how many squats you’ve done this morning?

Consumers share all their data for the greater good of society; privacy is regarded as selfish.‘ EY GSA

Privacy social attitudes change to the extent where not sharing data is regarded as selfish. Country citizens are happy to make private information available if it’s for the good of society.

53 % of consumers in our Index would make their data available if it helped to monitor and track an infection cluster.‘ EY GSA

Past experiences offer insights into how consumers may behave after the pandemic ends. For example, air travel quickly bounced back from a sharp decline immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001. People were reassured by more robust security. Air travelers who may have previously raised privacy concerns around security checks were more willing to accept stringent measures, including body scanning, in exchange for greater security.

Lessen privacy updates in the age of Covid-19

Speaking about pandemics in Europe, Italy was the first country to be severely impacted by the virus. Thus, the Italian DPA (the Garante) was the first to deliver guidelines concerning COVID-19 back on the 2nd March 2020. According to the DPA, public health authorities are the only organizations that are mandated to collect and manage data about health: “The investigation into and collection of information on the symptoms typical of Coronavirus and on the recent movements of each individual is the responsibility of healthcare professionals and the civil protection system, which are the entities tasked with ensuring compliance with the public health rules that were recently adopted.”

However in Asian countries, in China, citizens have no other option rather download government-issued health applications that show a score based on contagion risk and share that information with the public security institutions. Moreover, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security has also bought a facial recognition technology. It can identify individuals, even when they are wearing a (surgical) mask. Something which may be considered as severely intruding to one’s private life in Western societies. Not to mention exposure to hacks and other rogue activities in mind.

The role of eCommerce in fastly-changing customers' behavior towards privacy data

Numerous surveys indicate that customers are willing to exchange their data as long as they’re getting something valuable in return and provided the security threats are contained. As shopping and buying became increasingly personalized activities, companies will have to rethink how they engage future consumers and what goods and services they offer. 

Various functionalities that help to improve the individualized experience, such as matching the pick-up location, delivery pooling, or personal offers based not only on previous shopping habits but also on presumed needs in the specific location and even the time of day are attracting more and more interest by consumers. Buyers don’t mind sharing their coordinates, as long as they receive faster delivery. Yet make no mistake: the consent to share the data will vanish immediately after your customers will start suspecting the excessive use of their personal data, or even worse – after getting aware of a data breach (even if it didn’t concern them directly).

Find something useful that your brand could offer in exchange for customers’ data and make sure your site has got rid of all security vulnerabilities. It will then be considered as a win-win situation for both your customers and yourself.

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