This value exchange, however, may be something the customer is growing more aware of (and actively wants to exploit).

As a starter, I thought I’d list some examples of notional data-value exchanges between customers and brands.

Please do add your own thoughts in the comments below.

Data for an improved customer experience

I’ll start with the broadest category and the one that interests me the most. Customers are now willing to trade their data for an improved customer experience.

The product is essentially unchanged, but the way the customer interacts with the brand may change.

Simple examples include allowing an app to track your location to giving your phone number to a retailer so you can receive click-and-collect notifications by SMS.

More nuanced exchanges include allowing Facebook and Google to track you (by signing in on multiple devices) in order to receive more relevant content (see Facebook’s prompt to sign-in within Safari on my iPhone).

facebook signin prompt on safari 

Data licensing (for rewards)

Some companies are banking on consumers becoming ever more savvy when trading their data.

People.IO is a startup due to go into closed beta in 2016 that allows users to license their data, allowing them effectively to request rewards from named brands that have been given premission to engage at specific times and frequency.

The user is able to opt out of a particular brand’s messages at any point and their data is never handed over.

Could we see more of this explicit data licensing as users get fed up of bloated advertising and targeting models?

Gated publishing models

Most users know that advertising revenue permits their free access to online content.

Many publishers have a gated system though, where registration is required in order to access a certain amount of editorial.

Publishers use this data to sell further advertising in other channels (usually email or direct mail), but also to continue the pursuit of other revenue streams (subscription, donation, events, third-party offers etc.).

There are problems with this model, most notably a poor experience for users referred from social media and Google’s requisite that its searchers’ first click should be free (and a minimum of three articles viewable from search per day).

Google also capitalises on this metered content by overlaying its consumer surveys product (shown below), another form of data-value exchange, requiring the user to answer a question in order to access the article.

google consumer surveys 

Email newsletters

A classic data-value exchange in ecommerce and publishing. With email one of the most effective digital channels for driving traffic and sales, newsletter signups offer brands the ability to target their most interested customers.

Newsletters in ecommerce tend to give users advanced notice of product updates, as well as insider knowledge, offering loyal customers the feeling and benefits of exclusivity.

topshop newsletter signup 

Loyalty programmes

Loyalty programmes have long been not simply a method of customer retention through reward but also of effectively profiling customers, allowing businesses to better understand recency, frequency and monetary value.

Most useful in food and grocery, loyalty has been a difficult nut to crack on mobile, with many loyalty apps trying to profile consumers and consolidate multiple loyalty programmes.

Loyalty programmes remain (fairly obviously) the preserve of loyal customers and therefore apps like shopkick and Pirq are not household names, as consumers instead seek relationships directly with brands and stores.

loyalty app on tablet


Arguably this falls under the broader banner of improving customer experience except that often personalisation is not made explicit to the layman user. It’s here that the European ‘cookie law’ comes in.

Web users generally agree to being tracked (if only to make annoying pop-down messages disappear) and this can lead to anything from the display of offers to returning non-buyers (obviously a reward) to dynamic pricing (benefiting the user on average but perhaps not seen as a fair data-value exchange by individuals).

It’s personalisation, specifically through targeted advertising, that some web users have become disenfranchised with.

Of course, this identity data is anonymised but nevertheless, startups like People.IO are zeroing in on the consumers who want all data-value exchange to be on their own terms.