Are Consumers Becoming More Hesitant With Their Personal Information?

Ritam Gandhi, Director and Founder at Studio Graphene explores…

Nothing stands still in technology for long. Within the sector, the constant drive towards contributing to the constant hum of incremental improvement can often seem an inexhaustible resource. However, it is worth pausing for thought – are consumers truly along for the ride?

We often talk about accessibility in tech. One of the great rewards of perpetual tech innovation are the advancements in accessibility – bringing the benefits of purposeful service-based products and platforms into the hands of a wider mass of users.

This issue is emblematic of the risks inherent as we march into the next generation of innovations, which if developed without proper thought for how users interact with technology and where it intersects with privacy and trust, risk cleaving consumers into two speeds; those who can engage fully, and those left out due to concerns around the information required to access the technology.

In the next five years, the number of devices feeding into the data sphere of the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to reach 75 billion – a threefold increased on 2018. This increased dependence on connectedness will naturally mean consumers are more wary of what they input in the first place – knowing that often, their personal data will be near-impossible to fully retrieve.

Building for users

The Data & Marketing Association’s Data Privacy: What the Consumer Really Thinks 2022 report found that a majority (69%) of UK consumers have high levels of concern around their online privacy – though around half (46%) report a willingness to provide sensitive information to businesses if they can identify a clear benefit in return. This indicates that consumers are already facing difficult trade-offs between their discomfort with sharing information, and desire to access value-adding services.

Reluctance, however, does not have to slow the wheels of genuinely beneficial innovation. For example, retailer Uniqlo has trialled a new technology in stores, using RFID tags to automate the self check-out experience. This is a fascinating example of well-measured digital transformation, because it not only builds on a last-gen innovation to implement improvements, but bypasses complicated user input to provide the user one seamless journey from confirmation to payment.

This means that the checkout technology does not need to contain multifaceted design to incorporate tailored uses for the needs of each individual customer – it makes the process simpler for both the consumer and the retailer. Meanwhile, it has huge accessibility benefits – older people and those with physical disabilities can far more easily access this technology than its previous iteration.

Conversely, physical retail entrust Amazon’s Fresh stores implemented a comparable, though far more advanced tranche of tools, including Just Walk Out tech, using computer vision to apply purchases without the need for checkout in person. The company have this month revealed they will be slowing the rollout in the UK due to not meeting sales targets – which may be partly attributed to a ‘too much, too soon’ approach to innovation.

Simpler, rather than more

In a series of research conducted by Studio Graphene taking the temperature on the attitudes of 2,000 UK consumers towards new technology, there was a clear trend towards users feeling the strain of feature overload. More than half (60%) said there is simply too much new technology, with little thought applied to whether it is really necessary – rising to 66% of those aged 55 and over.

Meanwhile, 58% said businesses were too eager to move to new systems and platforms without proper thought for how users would adapt.

The forward march on to ever smarter, and more intricately connected technologies through AI and IoT is inevitable – and so developers must engage with countering the innate concerns of users. Naturally, this must start by building robust systems to protect users information; but should also extent to communicating this to users in a way that ensures everyone is afforded not only the presumption of security – but some understanding of it.

Ultimately, this is a question of using design effectively, and pairing technological innovation with sincere engagement towards users.

As user hesitancy grows, and the technology they are expected to engage with becomes more abstract and esoteric, developers should prioritise building logical information pathways at the point of onboarding that allow users to tap into their innovations with peace of mind – or risk narrowing the field of people excited to try out new products for the long-term.

Ritam Gandhi is the Founder and Director of Studio Graphene – a London-based company that specialises in the development of blank canvas tech products including apps, websites, AR, IoT and more. The company has completed over 250 projects since first being started in 2014, working with both new entrepreneurs and product development teams within larger companies.


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