Opinion

It seems that personal data is an especially hot topic these days—especially in light of what the world has witnessed with the Facebook fiasco, and more. But in any adverse situation, there’s always a positive outcome: a lesson learned as to how to manage your own data, and how to use it for your own personal goals.

To look back on the first decade of true social media and the data we’re all willing to share worldwide—platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the seemingly endless list of other social connectivity tools at our collective disposals—we all learned some hard lessons. For many, it came as a surprise that social media platforms were leveraging our collective data for their own purposes—but what the world learned from that represents a giant step forward.

In a world that is consumed by data, it’s now clear that we as a society must be diligent in managing our own information. Throughout our lives we’ve learned to manage our finances, taxes, mortgages, and so on—it’s all part of growing up. Our personal data is just another thing we all need to learn how to manage.

So now that we know what our personal data can mean, the question becomes: How do we make it work for us? In the new digital age, what we desire versus what we get from the institutions we interact with daily, will be fully dependant on the information we give them. In the retail world, this new paradigm is already revolutionizing how we all shop, buy, and shop again—making our personal experiences the most important part of the interaction.

Long gone are the days of the one-to-many marketing and sales efforts. Radio and TV ads that spray and pray to a large audience with varied demographics hoping to catch the eye or ear of someone interested in their product or service. Now, with technology firmly implanted in our social fabric, we as a society should expect far better and far more.

I know for myself, if ads aren’t designed exactly for me and my interests, I immediately tune out. Call me spoiled, call me selfish—I’m okay with that, because I also know what retailers could be doing to make my experience far more personalized and better.

We all shop—that’s not going to change in our consumer-driven world. And, we all want to be shown respect, love, and interest. Combine these and you have the new retail world, or at least the one that is quickly coming to fruition.

So with that in mind, and data being so important to everyone, businesses and individuals alike, all intertwined in a symbiotic relationship, I say let’s all take advantage. Give retailers your personal data as it pertains to your likes, dislikes, when you like to shop, when you don’t, and so on. Let them know that you also demand highly personalized attention and appreciate details that are aimed at just you and you alone. Then let them know that if they don’t meet your expectations that you will happily vote with your wallet and find another retailer who will show you the love that you very much want and deserve.

Businesses today have to learn to change if they are to survive. It’s no longer about the business and its goals, it’s all about the consumer and their goals. As consumers, it’s our turn to take the power back through data, and what we choose to share to get the most out of the retailers who wish to do business with us. We are all in charge now—the business world better be ready.