Ernst & Young: Businesses must prepare for end to 'golden age' of customer data

Data Protection Act changes and shift in consumer attitudes will make data more scarce, report claims

Businesses will find access to customer data become more restricted in the next five years as consumers become more wary of handing over personal information, according to an Ernst & Young survey.

Ernst & Young's 'The Big Data Backlash' report focused on attitudes to customer data, with two separate surveys of 2,000 consumers and 748 senior business executives. The report revealed that consumers are becoming less willing to share their personal information, with 49 percent anticipating they will restrict access by 2018, while 55 percent already offer less personal information than five years previously.

The report highlighted potential changes to the Data Protection Act to allow consumers to demand deletion of data as one factor that will make customer data more scarce.

"If this 'forget me' part of the legislation comes in then that is going to be a fairly significant change for a lot of organisations to handle, and I think there will be a percentage of the population which will take advantage of that," said EY partner, Patrick James.

The supply of data by businesses to third parties is also a concern for consumers, with three quarters never happy for their data to be shared. The security of sensitive information following a number of high-profile cyber attacks may also create apprehension over supplying personal data, James said.

The report also highlights that businesses continue to rely on customer data. Almost two thirds, 62 percent, of businesses surveyed said they implement 'customer insight' programmes to collect and interpret customer information to drive business growth, with 87 percent of these claiming to see revenues increase as a result.

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Some 41 percent believe that restricted access to their customers' personal details would be a risk to their business model. However the report found that despite the reliance on personal data, the majority of businesses (71 percent) remain unconcerned about the prospect of restricted access to customer information.

According to James, businesses need to prepare for changes in how they capture information about their customers, implementing strategies such as gamification and other incentives to ensure that they are not cut off from this resource in future.

"It is one of the challenges of the digital world that a lot of organisations will quite happily continue as they are and then in five years the world will have changed, new legislation will have come in and consumer behaviour will have changed," he said.

"We see the velocity of change is increasingly, and therefore there is the possibility that organisations will get left behind. It not an immediate challenge for tomorrow but is part of building your strategy for the next five years."

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