Turn it around – could businesses sell data to consumers?

sell personal data
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Thousands of companies buy and sell consumer data with other companies. Most recently, hundreds of business plans have been prepared, which essentially revolve around the idea of consumers selling their own data to monetize it. Probably neither of these models is a sustainable business. But what about consumers starting to pursue data from companies and public sources? Could it turn the perspective around? Does this sound strange? Let’s take a closer look at how such a proposition could make sense.

Companies collect and trade consumer data to make more money from consumers. Over the last few years, there have been several startups and business plans where consumers could gain a share of that money by selling their data. However, in reality, it is tough to get that kind of market to work. How do you define the right price? How do you control the use of the data? (Some people reply by referring to blockchain: perhaps, one day, but it is not that simple.) Are consumers keen to sell their data for a few dollars? How do you manage all different data sets, and to whom such data should be sold? There is no objective evidence that this type of market will happen or be of any value to consumers.

Nevertheless, we see clear evidence that people can get value from their data. Their financial data could help with financial planning. Personal purchase history helps find the best places to buy. And health and wearable data can significantly help with individual well being, health and life habits. We can conclude by saying that the real value to consumers is that they can get value from their data or have smart applications to utilize it better. In some instances, personal data could also empower consumers against businesses using their data when it is not only one side that can use data and AI.

More value from personal data with external data

When consumers can utilize their data, for example, for well being, optimal purchases, and finance apps, the natural next step is the possibility of combining external data sources with their data. A straightforward example could be when consumers could get better recommendations if they could combine their Netflix and YouTube watch history with some public data (such as IMDB).

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We already see apps that help consumers with their exercise, especially getting data from their wearables, analyzing them, and providing feedback to help people improve their activity. Further, what if we could combine some public data with personal wearables, such as air quality data? Then we can better analyze, e.g., heart rate and breathing, when we know if the air is highly polluted or contains a lot of allergens. It is then also possible to recommend healthier routes for exercising.

Already today, we can start thinking about some commercial data that is offered to consumers. Today, you can already buy running routes from Strava. Then, we can make a much better application for runners. It can take into account the runner’s preferences, health data, air quality data, and good running routes, analyze all of this, and recommend the best and healthiest running routes.

This is just a straightforward example. Still, it demonstrates that users can get value from their data and get even more value when public and commercial data are woven into unique data sets. We, of course, also have historical evidence that people buy data, e.g. stock and investing market data, when they want to become active investors. People now also pay to get DNA analysis, i.e. get their genetic data. We can also argue that news, maps, and books include data that people buy. However, in this post, we refer specifically to raw data that users can utilize with these personal apps.

What data would you pay for?

It is a kind of paradox that there have been many discussions about data markets where people are envisioned as selling their data to companies. However, a data market oriented in the other direction starts to look much more feasible. This is all linked to the fact that personal data and personal data apps can empower people and become even more powerful when combining external data sources with their data and apps.

Let’s take a look at some other data sources that could make sense for consumers to use. For people planning a healthy diet, detailed data from food products could be of value. Ingredients, nutritional values and prices would help plan the diet, especially if combined with activity data, health data and, e.g. real-time glucose data. Would you be willing to pay $3 a month to get that kind of food data app that helps you plan your diet?

Or would you pay a few dollars for more accurate traffic data that could be combined with your daily schedule to plan your days? Would you pay for a data source to get all grocery pricing data to optimize your weekly food basket price? Or would you pay for data that includes a lot of fitness training data that could, together with your exercise data, help to optimize your training? We are still in the early days with services that help you use personal data and have individual apps to get value from. But we can already see it is becoming a big thing. We also see how third party data, public data, and data from businesses can offer added value to personal data apps. And, somewhat surprisingly, we can also see personal data apps can provide opportunities for businesses to sell data to consumers. Then it is no longer that businesses intrude on consumers personal data and life, but offer people something that makes their life better and empower them.

Related article: Solutions for personal data will be the fastest-growing sector this decade

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