New study examines consumers' thoughts and values regarding the collection of personal data

Companies use this information to be able to target marketing to potential customers and audiences.

This study is part of a project on consumers' views of, and experiences with, the collection of digital consumer data and data-driven marketing and is based on analyses of in-depth interviews with people about their experiences and behaviours regarding data collection.

“We have identified three main ‘narratives’ around the storage of information and data-driven marketing: positive, resigned, or with a sense of active resistance. These ‘narratives’ have to do with consumers' experiences, values, norms and everyday practices in the encounter with data-gathering technologies and data-driven marketing,” said Niklas Sörum, Associate Professor of Business Administration, who, together with Christian Fuentes, Professor of Business Administration at Lund University, conducted the study.

The concept of "narratives" includes the shared values, practices, or norms that are linked to the introduction of new technologies in society, and that affect us as consumers regarding, for example, the view of the new digital technologies and marketing systems as a threat or an opportunity. 

“The three approaches we have identified among our participants shape how they interpret and interact with these types of technologies. For example, those who are positive tend to see a utopian potential in the new technology, while those who express a more negative view tend to interpret the digital systems in more dystopian terms and thus also distance themselves from or try to distance themselves from data collection and data-driven advertising,” explained Niklas Sörum. 

Important questions to examine

The study examines "sociotechnical imaginaries," which are shared or cultural interpretations about and experiences of data collection. It contributes knowledge about the distribution and nature of consumers' existing conceptions of computer technology as well as how these affect the values, norms, speculations, and understandings that we as users use to make sense of our computerised lives.

“The results are helpful for different kinds of actors, who must, or should, pay attention to both the negative and positive values made by consumers when they interact with digital marketing systems. If these are not taken seriously, there is an imminent risk of a backlash against activities that come across as unpleasant, controlling, and scary, or that they violate prevailing norms of people's views of intimacy and privacy, resulting in consumers’ withdrawing from future engagement,” explained Niklas Sörum.

There are thus financial resources, commitment and expectations on the part of companies in terms of data-driven marketing, and thus companies and technology developers need to take both concerns about and advantages of the new technology seriously.

Read more

Read the article How sociotechnical imaginaries shape consumers' experiences of and responses to commercial data collection practices

The study is published in the journal Consumption Markets Culture and has been published on Taylor Francis Online.

Niklas Sörum – Researcher Profile

Research group: Digital Consumption