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In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris discuss a recent consumer data experience with one vendor sharing data to another vendor without the consumer’s active consent. In this show, you’ll learn what active consent is (and why it matters), how to track down the likely vectors of data sharing, and how marketers should think about consumer data collection and sharing.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn 0:02
This is In-Ear Insights the Trust Insights podcast. Do you want to use AI in your marketing but you’re not sure where to start? Take a class with Trust Insights and the marketing AI Institute. The AI Academy offers more than 25 classes and certification courses to start you on your AI journey including our intelligent attribution modeling for marketers certification. One membership gets you access to all 25 classes. Visit Trust insights.ai slash AI Academy to learn more and enroll today. That’s Trust insights.ai slash AI Academy to enroll today. Are you struggling to reach the right audiences? Trust Insights offers sponsorships in our newsletters, podcasts and media properties to help your brand be seen and heard by the right people. Our media properties with almost 100,000 people every week from the In-Ear Insights podcast to the most timely and in the headlights newsletters. Reach out to us today at Trust insights.ai slash contact to learn more. Again, that’s Trust insights.ai slash contact. In this week’s in your insights. Let’s talk about data forensics, both from the consumer perspective and from the marketers perspective. So Katie, you’ve got a bit of a mystery for us data detectives to solve.

Katie Robbert 1:15
I do. And it was one of those things as a consumer that took me aback a little bit. So even though you know we run a data science company, there’s still a lot about how data is shared, that we don’t necessarily have the answer for so something that we want to start to pick apart is so over the weekend, on Saturday, I went to Walgreens a local pharmacy chain to pick up a haircare product, not a product I’d ever used not a product that I ever talked about. Not a product I’d ever even known existed until I got to the store and saw Oh, this looks like the kind of thing I’m looking for. But I didn’t go into the store thinking I want this exact product. I’ve done some research on it. So there’s a little bit of that happening. So I bought the product. I came home and then on Sunday, I start seeing ads for it on Instagram. Now my first thought is, how the heck does Instagram know that just 24 hours prior I for the first time discovered and purchase this product. Now I don’t have a smart system set up on my phone. So I haven’t been talking about it, there is a good chance that my phone is still listening regardless. But then I would have had to have named that exact thing in the course of conversation with myself because my husband was working all weekend. So it to me, it’s just sort of a mystery as to how Instagram, within 24 hours knew that I was in possession of this product. So Chris, what are you thinking?

Christopher Penn 2:51
Well, let’s ask some questions. So the ad on Instagram was by Walgreens was it by the hair company?

Katie Robbert 2:57
It was by the hair company.

Christopher Penn 2:59
Okay. And when you were at the shelf, did you notice it was a standard Walgreens shelf? Was there an electronic display? Was it an endcap? What was it?

Katie Robbert 3:10
It was your standard? Metal cold shelf?

Christopher Penn 3:15
There was no cool display. Okay. And what apps were you running on your phone at the time, you might not know that. But if there are apps in the background that were running,

Katie Robbert 3:28
um, I don’t know what was running in the background. At the time, I was listening to an audio book, I was listening to overdrive through my library. But I highly doubt that my library is transmitting haircare product data. Most likely things like you know, GPS and that kind of thing. But otherwise, none that no apps that I’m aware of. And that may create a problem.

Christopher Penn 3:53
And did you use your Walgreens customer card?

Katie Robbert 3:57
I did. And that was my thought. Yep.

Christopher Penn 4:00
Okay, so there’s three, maybe four different possibilities here. One, apps, particularly Spotify can transmit location based data within stores back to merchants and vendors. They are very, very good at that their location data from a source that we have talked to can target you down to the aisle so it knows he can know what aisle you’re in. And obviously, based on that what kinds of stuff is in that aisle? That’s one possibility. second possibility would be beacons, which are the NFC devices that a merchant would typically place in and around a store that track your movement either throughout the store or very specific aisles. So if there was a special cool display is a nonzero chance there’s a beacon embedded within that display. You’ll see this in electronic pricing shelves like if you go on to like Alibaba for example. You can actually as a merchant by shells have cameras and displays built right Along with facial recognition, and you can tie that to, you know, different merchants. And so the shelf can recognize you, and display and change the pricing for you, like give you a discount, or a promotion. But based on what you’re saying, it sounds like the most logical thing is the Walgreens customer file. Obviously, you know, every merchant with these loyalty cards, shares that data, well sells that data to other to other brands. And if you’re seeing ads for it, what work, what I’m wondering is, if it’s just the, you know, in the file, it’s like, Hey, you bought this thing, or you just bought something from this company. Because normally, when you get an ad for something you already bought, it’s usually because a marketer didn’t set up their advertising system correctly, and is trying to sell you something you just bought, which is kind of a waste of ad dollars.

Katie Robbert 5:54
Well, and so that was the other thing I was thinking is I’ve already purchased the thing, why am I now seeing ads for it? Which so that’s a whole other conversation about how improperly ads can be set up in the wrong messaging, depending on where they are on the customer journey. You know, so to your first point about the location data, through apps, like Spotify, you know, that actually makes a lot of sense, because I have previously seen ads for things that I was looking at or considering at other kinds of stores. While when I was at Walgreens, I happened to be in the haircare aisle, they had no fit no like fancy displays, and it’s actually a much older Walgreens. And so I would have, I would have been less surprised if I just seen general haircare ads, because it’s a rather long aisle. And there’s hundreds of different kinds of products, but they were able to show me an ad specifically for the product that I purchased, which is what sort of, for me raised my hackles of like, okay, someone sold my data. And within 24 hours, I started seeing ads for the thing. So I’m guessing, Chris, that your analysis but the Walgreens Customer Care number is the thing that tied me to this specific ad, what I was even more caught off guard by was the quickness in which it happened. It wasn’t a week later, it was literally within 24 hours for this exact product.

Christopher Penn 7:26
The thing about the 24 hour delay tells me that it’s likely the Walgreens customer number because Spotify and other GPS based apps, that date is near real time. So you could have been seeing, you know, Instagram as fat as soon as that evening. If if they was because what they’re going to try and do, ideally is hard you before you leave the store, like if you’re listening to something on on the on the radio, you’re hearing that in the in the non paid version would be a good way to try and save that shopping cart. If it’s a day later, that suggests batch processing, like you get a daily file from the vendor. And then you know, they load that into their ad systems and they spin up, it goes into the next day as batch. And to your point, if it had been a week later, that’s something different. That’s either the vendor gets a much less frequent data files, or they are just really bad at running their own Mar tech stack. But that 24 hour delay tells me it’s probably a daily batch process. And then that gets loaded. And so from a forensics perspective, the the thing that you would do next to test it is no, I’m not saying go out and buy a whole bunch of stuff at Walgreens. But go and you know, browse Walgreens without buying something one visit and see if you see any new ads in the Instagram feed, if so that tells you that it’s not the customer data file itself, and then maybe do go buy a sample of sub products that you know, could likely be running e commerce ads, and see if again, those start to show up in your Instagram feed as well. And that that will give you that sort of scientific test like yeah, there’s, there’s some causality here for this. There’s not for these other things.

Katie Robbert 9:05
So you know, it’s interesting. If we go back to Spotify for a second, I knew that they had the you know, you can break it down into very small geographic regions. And they know when their customers are either driving or traveling through certain areas. So I’ve experienced that before. And I’ve actually set up ads to that effect before. And that makes sense because it’s using your GPS information to say you are in the town of Framingham, Massachusetts, therefore the you know, vendor who is purchased ad space in the town of Framingham is now going to have you listened to these very specific ads. That to me makes a lot of sense. It was the for it. A bit of a disconnect between having no awareness of the product and then seeing starting to see ads on the product. You know, I wonder if this is something that consumers are even aware about? Done with their information. As they’re signing up for these, you know, discount cards, I think that there’s this lack of understanding that these discount cards are actually a bigger deal to the companies that are issuing them. So you might get like, a $1 off or a $2 off coupon. But the company is getting much, much more in terms of rich customer behavioral data, in order to develop new products and show ads and do e commerce and you know, basically follow you everywhere.

Christopher Penn 10:36
Yep, so one of the other things to think about is who the parent company of the haircare product is because there’s a nonzero chance that it could be like Unilever, for example, in which case, that data file could be sent to the parent company, and it’s it’s shared down to the individual units and things. So there’s, there’s definitely some more forensics to be done there. But yeah, to your point about what consumers expect, the average consumer, I don’t think just has this the slightest understanding of how ad tech works. And ad tech is, obviously it’s a very lucrative industry. Obviously, it’s a very competitive industry. And consumers give an awful lot permission to things that they don’t understand. There’s the old Latin phrase, Nolan gratuites. And pronto, right, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So as our friend Tom Webster says, if you’re not paying, you are the product that is being resold. And I don’t think that’s a mindset that consumers understand what their data which means that for marketers, we have to tread really carefully, and how we use consumer data, how we acquire it, how we store it safely, and then how we use it. Obviously, there are any number of landmines, you know, going all the way back to the famous target example of target sending your maternity ads to a team that, you know, that didn’t realize their father didn’t realize they were pregnant. Where we can cause more harm than good, right? We can, we can cause substantial reputational damage and part of good governance around consumer data is disclosed to consumers and up in an easy way. Like, hey, here’s what we’re doing with your data. If you don’t consent, you know, click here. It’s like every website, you go to saying, Hey, we use cookies, you know, click here to accept and then you know, there’s like, some tiny little button says, you could manage this and you open up like, here’s the 44 things we do with your day, you’re like, well, I only want this one here and these other 43 No, but yeah, most people don’t look at that. If you want actually, a fun thing to test would be to set up some event tracking on your on your websites pop up. Nobody know that manage cookies button to see how many people actually click on the, you know, manage my data, like I would bet you like maybe 1% of people that go to the website. Good. Everyone the other night never said just click the OK button to make the thing go away. Even though you could lose said your firstborn child is now our property.

Katie Robbert 13:00
So let me ask you this question, Chris. So let’s say you are like me, and you signed up for, for example, a Walgreens card maybe, you know, 567 10 years ago. And let’s say you never like so you just you sign up for the card, because you knew you get some additional discounts. Great. No big deal. 10 years ago, you’ve never logged into their website to manage your account, you just on occasion, like maybe once or twice a month when you go to the store. They’re like, do you have a Walgreens account? Oh, yeah, I think I do. Let me punch in my phone number. And so you do that. And then you go about your day. And so I’ve never checked in to see, in the 10 years that I’ve had this account, has the privacy policy policy changed? Has my end user agreement change? You know, is there even a way for me to manage this information? So why am I so caught off guard that all of a sudden, they’re selling my data? And I never said it was okay, because it’s on me? I never checked to see if that was even something I was signing up for? Or if that has changed in their policy in 10 years.

Christopher Penn 14:11
So you’re getting it why GDPR and ccpa exist, these these legislative requirements for marketers? Because in a lot of cases, yeah. People don’t know, they might have given a phone over there, they might have given an address and the company has likely done the minimum due diligence required means that they probably sent a postal notice, or an email that ended up in your spam bin saying, here’s how our privacy policies have changed. You almost certainly got notices about this, at the beginning of this year when ccpa took over, because every company did the whole you know, we all got these notices, even in 2018 when GDPR went into effect saying our privacy policy has changed got 500 of them and all at the same time for every company you’ve ever done business with. And what did you do? You probably put them all in the trash, right? Cuz these Yeah. But implicit in that is you were given notice, and you didn’t read it. And so the, you’re correct, the burden of responsibility for managing your privacy is on you. However, as marketers, we have to be cognizant of the fact that, even if we’ve made it, we’ve done the regulatorily required things, that is different than doing something with a consumer that has active consent. And that’s one of the topics that keeps coming up in privacy legislation is active consent means Yeah, yeah, actually read the thing. Like you went through the the two minute tutorial or whatever. And, and you click OK, knowingly, or you took a quiz? And it says, yes, you actually read the thing. In those cases, companies are a lot safer for reputational damage, because like, yeah, you watch the YouTube video to the end, we can watch that. And, and, you know, you’ve agreed, knowingly, what you’re getting into. And I think from a best practices perspective, we want that we want active consent for our stuff, we want customers to know what they’re getting into. And if we’re selling their data, we tell them, you know, what’s in it for them, like, Hey, I’m gonna sell you, I’m gonna sell your data to this haircare company. And in exchange, you might get some extra discounts on the hair guy think Do you agree? If the customer says no, I don’t want discounts cool. If the customers share, I’ll take an extra, you know, 20% off, then then they get to make the exchange. This was something that one of the presidential candidates Andrew Yang was was big on was saying that customers should have the right to sell their data instead, like the company is not permitted to do it, the customer is what it says, Yeah, you pay me, you know, 30% off your product, and I’ll give you my data kind of thing. Or you give me $1. For every time I click OK, I’m a consent button. It’s an interesting idea, because it would shift the economic burden to the the technology providers to the marketers, I don’t think it will ever happen because companies are not going to be willing to pay that. But certainly, with things like GDPR, it’s going to make a patchwork quilt of privacy. And so our guidance always to marketers is make sure your privacy policies and things adhere to the strictest standard. And then you never have to worry about whether you’re compliant or not.

Katie Robbert 17:17
You know, you bring up this notion of the active consent. And I feel like we’ve talked about this before, probably on a different podcast. Um, you know, but I can absolutely see why companies would want to do the bare minimum and sort of like skirt around this notion of active consent, because it’s not in their best interest, to not have complete access to consumer data. So if they are putting privacy policies and consent forms and tutorials in the face of their consumer, the likelihood of them getting the data starts to go down considerably. Because a lot of people are saying, Well, no, I don’t want to share my data with you at all, ever. I want nothing to do with discounts, I want nothing to do with you, knowing who I am, my purchasing patterns, my likes my dislikes, I want nothing to do with that. So you get nothing. And then that then puts the companies at a severe handicap. And as I’m saying this, I realized, we have had this conversation before on a different podcast. That said, it’s still such an important topic that it definitely bears repeating. Because as it gets increasingly more difficult for companies to get consumer data, they have to then think of other ways to reach their key demographic and their market. And you’re gonna start to see the companies that are less creative, less agile, less innovative, just start to fall by the wayside when it comes to digital marketing.

Christopher Penn 18:47
Yep, and the other thing is, as awareness properly, properly, becomes greater about the misuse of data, things like AI and you know, creating unintended biases, there’s an additional disincentive for you to tell a company who you are, what your preferences are, because you can obviously infer things like race and religion from those those data points. So yeah, there’s a strong disincentive to want to share that data, which means that as marketers, we have to figure out okay, what is the strong enough incentive to get somebody to want to share that data? If we agree that data is valuable, which I think if you’re listening to this podcast, you probably agree with that. Then what are we willing to pay for? What are we willing to give for it? What’s in it for the customer, and in a lot of cases, there’s not enough, there’s not enough in it for the customer to go, Okay, I think this is worth forking over my data, and potentially even being exposed to a hostile algorithm down the road, depending on the company. So the takeaway here for the marketer is you’ve got to decide what customer data is worth, and then be willing to pay it and be willing to pay a premium for it because as legislation continues as privacy groups get better as consumers get better at understanding how their data isn’t, is not being misused, you will be in competition with your competitors, not only for the sale, but also for the right to the data. And you would better be able to outsell your competitors on the value of what you’re going to give them in exchange for this data. Because it’s, you know, to cater to your point, it’s a sale, it’s just like, buying the product itself, that giving that data over is a sale. And we as marketers have to convince people to sell us their data.

Katie Robbert 20:31
Mm hmm. I agree. And, you know, as you know, being on both sides of it is really interesting as a consumer, in some ways, I almost felt completely violated of how dare you know, the thing that I just bought, and then show me ads for it. But I was the marketer, I’m like, Oh, this is great. I have access to consumer data. And so it is definitely that like, push pull of, I don’t know which side is the right side. So there has to be that middle ground of the consumer actively knowing and the market are actively telling.

Christopher Penn 21:04
Yep. As with so many things in life, consensus, everything gets somebody say yes, and you’re all good to go. If you got follow up questions about this or any other topic, pop on over to our slack group over at Trust insights.ai slash analytics for marketers, where you can talk with over 1300 other marketers about topics like this or anything else under the sun that’s related to marketing analytics. And if you haven’t already subscribed to this show, please do so go to Trust insights.ai slash ti podcast or just subscribe on whatever platform it is listening on. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you soon. want help solving your company’s data analytics and digital marketing problems. This is Trust insights.ai today and let us know how we can help you


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