IKEA sets a new privacy standard for marketers

You\’ve heard of the Amazon standard — in fact, you\’re probably getting a little tired of it. It expresses the undeniable fact that, in the consumer-centric era, customer experience (CX) not only matters more than product features like \”speeds and feeds.\” In addition, your organization\’s CX has to compete not just with your industry peers, but with the very best experiences consumers encounter anywhere — and Amazon\’s personalized shopping, seamless purchasing, and light-speed delivery are the gold standard all others are judged by.

So far, so true. But that was yesterday. Today, multiplying data regulations and (more importantly) the consumer backlash against data (ab)use combine to place trust at the top of the customer engagement dog pile.


The preeminence of trust (and trustworthiness; a very important distinction that I\’ve discussed here) fundamentally shifts the terms and the rules for processing personal data for marketing. Welcome to the new era of Beg Data, where accessing the data to fuel \”hyper-relevant\” CX means striking fully transparent bargains with fully informed consumers. (As always, we use consumer to refer to buyers, whether in B2C, B2B, or hybrid exchanges.)

Surviving — let alone thriving — in this era requires far, far more than creating ugly, undifferentiated (and usually illegal) cookie consent pop-ups, or repeating platitudes like \”we care about your privacy.\” (The joke in privacy circles is that Facebook\’s \”We take your privacy seriously\” contains a typo. They actually mean to say \”We take your privacy. Seriously.\”) Rather, consumers will be attracted to, and increasingly expect, data requests that are easy to understand, provide them with clear, convincing value, and put them firmly in control.

The joke in privacy circles is that Facebook\’s \”We take your privacy seriously\” contains a typo. They actually mean to say \”We take your privacy. Seriously.\”

IKEA stakes the claim to a new data privacy standard

In navigating this new environment, the great temptation — in terms of money and effort spared, disruption avoided, and continuing to extract value out of \”business as usual\” — is to get away with as little as possible. As consumers, we\’re all familiar with the unimpressive outcomes produced by this \”compliance-centric\” approach. The interfaces and interactions might satisfy the regulators. (Might: two recent studies in the EU found that over 85% of cookie consent notices are not GDPR-compliant in one or more ways.) But they typically continue to be indifferent (if not hostile) to the needs and desires of consumers.

Instead of this defensive, compliance-centric, posture, IKEA\’s recently announced data promise aims to go forcefully on the offensive, with a \”people-centric approach to digitalization and new technologies.\” In the YouTube video announcing the program, the Chief Digital Officer of IKEA\’s parent, Ingka Group, acknowledges what too many organizations still try to ignore: Consumers feel a lack of understanding, a lack of transparency, and a lack of trust.

She announces that IKEA will \”completely change the way we collect, view, and manage data.\” \”It\’s time,\” she adds, \”to have a win-win relationship for people and companies around [consumers\’] own data. And give control back to the people.\”

As promised, the data promise ticks the right boxes

By all means, you should watch the ten minute video yourself. (And then watch it again with your team.) Of course, TCA does not suggest that IKEA is offering a blueprint that you should apply blindly. (Besides, the program won\’t begin until April, and they stress that it will be a work in progress, constantly (re)designed in conjunction with consumers.) But as announced and demoed, IKEA\’s plan does embrace many of the central elements of what we advocate as a consumer-centric, trust-based data privacy strategy. A few of these include:

  • Authenticity — IKEA could have spilled a few million on a slick production number, with actors and a professional voice artist. Instead, we get the CDO, Barbara Martin Coppola, in a simple purple blouse, standing statically in front of what might well be the windows of an IKEA store restaurant. It\’s all as plain as a Billy bookshelf, but she communicates the feeling that she and the broader IKEA organization genuinely do care about \”re-design[ing] and re-think[ing] everything through the lens of data ethics.\”
  • Just-in-time, value-based consent requests — In our recent TCA webinar, Robert Rose and I discussed the value of just-in-time consent rather than having a jarring, CX-corrupting cookie pop-up at the first interaction. In the demo of IKEA\’s proposed app interactions, the customer, Lea, initial sees no consent request, because no data is being collected, and the content presented is entirely non-personalized. Later, she sees offers to allow her to save products for later viewing, or receive \”daily inspirations that she can customize.\” Of course, both of these require setting some cookies on her device, which the GDPR considers to be an act of data processing. But note that the consent request is always presented in the context of Lea\’s shopping, and couched in terms of the value she will receive by agreeing.
  • Granular, easily accessible control of consent and data — As soon as Lea grants consent to access her data, a blue bar appears at the bottom of the app screen. This is the access to a \”contextual data control panel,\” where Lea can see and modify or revoke each consent. And \”Lea can even decide how long IKEA will keep her data for\” with a simple slider control — the demo shows her moving it from six months to two weeks. (You\’ll want to buy your IT colleagues a few drinks before asking for this feature.)

Your reaction might be, \”Well, that\’s all very good for IKEA, but our budgets (or our legacy systems, or our compliance department) make it impossible here.\” But just as consumers don\’t care about your internal limitations when judging the experiences you offer — and demonstrably will switch their business if you fall much short of the \”Amazon standard\” — they\’re not going to cut you any more slack when you can\’t match up to the \”IKEA standard\” for data privacy and trust.

In that sense, the last line of the IKEA video should perhaps be understood as a warning: \”I invite all companies to join us and to prove that when we respect people\’s data, it is not only good business, but it\’s also the right thing to do.\”

Seems like a clear case of adapt or die.

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