By Peter Walker, Country Manager UKI, Information Builders

Discussions around the business benefits and challenges of Big Data are a constant, alongside conversations on how Big Data impacts the customer experience. But, until now, there has been a limited talk about the benefits for the ordinary consumer.

As customers’ awareness of the value of their personal information grows, they will begin to expect more for it in return. Take a country like Germany, for example, the data privacy laws have increasingly tightened as a result of the noticed exploitation of their personal data.

Lots of European businesses do have long heritages and faithful customers but since internet searches, social networks, online reviews and comparison sites have all appeared on the scene, it's become very easy and popular, for customers to look elsewhere, finding better deals at home and across borders that are far more beneficial to themselves. Therefore, customer loyalty is gradually fading out. But it’s key to remember that consumers are not only seeking the cheapest price, but also the best value for money. And, at the end of the day, they really don’t mind who this comes from.

So, how do businesses go about establishing consumer trust and putting an end to this trend of service level comparison?

Well, they need to demonstrate that they aren’t the consumers’ enemy. To achieve this they will have to have a thorough understanding of the customer, as well as better service and greater transparency. Big Data and analytics can play a huge part in trying to achieve these goals.

Effective use of Big Data will allow these digital experiences to expand beyond just traditional marketing tools. By adopting freely available open data sources, along with existing customer data, organisations can make these tools invaluable to the end user. This could be done, for example, with geo locations combined with transaction history and proposed localised discounts.

The biggest threat that European businesses face is from the negative sentiment around personal data gathering and usage. This consists of the variation in culture and law around the storage and use of personal information.

The demand for more accurate, personalised and informative services is increasing, as businesses want to confirm the information they harvest is correct. But, from a personal perspective, don’t forget that we're all consumers at the end of the day.

There’s a well-known saying that states that 'If the service is free, then you're the product'. If we take this idea but think of our personal data in terms of its value, then we can start to acknowledge what we're getting in return for the information that we provide. This makes the idea of how to use Big Data for consumers a lot clearer, it shows that all you have to do is simply provide benefits that are equal or greater than the value of the information being provided.

Therefore, for a business that does not want to lose customers or have the associated data locked up in data privacy laws, this needs to be the start point of a wider debate.

By obtaining a two-way relationship business, a better understanding of customers and a structure of loyalty and trust can be created.

The same consumer data that is used for better advertising or to improve processes and profits can also be used to provide advice or offer discounts.
Providing smart, trusted advice that customers need and use daily, through data and analytics, exemplifies how businesses can become much more involved in daily life. Retailers are now progressing with this customer-centric view, some are even attempting to break into the world of finance, but the consumer and regulatory landscape is swiftly changing.

For the moment, companies have the data advantage, however keeping afloat in this competitive landscape requires them to grasp how they should use it to their best advantage.