Why Consumers Are Increasingly Willing to Trade Privacy for Convenience

Amazon and Walmart are testing boundaries

The collective definition of privacy is shifting along with what experiences consumers deem valuable. Getty Images
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

Consumers have long exchanged data for services they find valuable, like email addresses or location for free Wi-Fi and social media profiles for easier site logins, but they are starting to let platforms into their lives like never before, even going so far as to consent to vehicle tracking and access to their homes.

While many consumers are still uncomfortable with in-home deliveries in particular, this will likely change as long-term relationships with platforms like Amazon, Google and even Walmart evolve and the collective definition of privacy shifts along with what experiences consumers deem valuable.

In-car deliveries can be traced to circa 2015, when manufacturers like Volvo and Audi began pilots in Europe. In exchange for sharing vehicle location during a delivery window, couriers are granted one-time access to the trunk to drop off or pick up packages.

Then, in September 2017, Walmart began a trial with smart home access company August Home to deliver goods inside participants’ homes—or even their refrigerators.

In-home orders placed at Walmart.com are picked up by associates from same-day delivery company Deliv, which has a one-time pass code to enter the recipient’s home via a keyless lock. The customer receives a notification when Deliv arrives and can watch the delivery.

Amazon’s competing service, Amazon Key, also taps into an indoor security camera and a smart lock, and plays out similarly to the Walmart service.

“The goal with video was largely around building comfort for the customer,” said Jason Johnson, CEO of August Home, pointing to how Uber and Lyft had dashboard cameras to protect the driver and also make the passenger comfortable in a stranger’s car.

A November 2017 survey from online community Toluna found almost a quarter of respondents would take advantage of in-home delivery if available. Participants could give multiple reasons for rejecting the service, and 48 percent cited security and 36 percent said safety as reasons to not use Amazon or Walmart in-home delivery.

In-home delivery providers are certainly keen to stress safety and security, along with convenience.

In a blog post, Sloan Eddleston, vp of Walmart ecommerce strategy and business operations, said homeowners control the entire in-home delivery experience and return home to magically find their orders waiting for them.

Millions of consumers already trust platforms like Amazon and Google in their homes with voice devices—in-home delivery and cameras merely extend the relationship further. (Google’s subsidiary Nest sells security cameras, but a rep said Nest Secure doesn’t allow home access. He didn’t comment on delivery plans.)

For his part, Jason Snyder, global CTO of Momentum Worldwide, said whatever platform is closest to the consumer controls the conversation on the consumer journey—and technology-driven experiences require a trade-off in which utility and quality of service determine how much permission a brand will get. And as relationships build, consumers will continue to give permission, provided the experience is good.

“Think about the Amazon model,” Snyder said. “If you have a problem [like stolen packages], now you have a lock and a camera and give permission to come into your house. If that’s a good experience, you will let them walk the dog. If that’s a good experience, you will let them clean the house.”

Similarly, Anindya Ghose, a business professor at NYU, said he found in a May 2017 study that more than 75 percent of participants were willing to share intimate data with companies—provided the firms have a product or service they value.

“They are beginning to demand a fair exchange for their data and want to negotiate the terms with brands to mutual advantage,” he said.

Ghose said the market will continue to see shifts in the acceptance of what is considered normal, driven by convenience and economic efficiencies—much like with Uber and Lyft.

And as Amazon in particular enters sectors like healthcare, Snyder asked, “Is it so crazy to imagine Amazon will dispatch a doctor to your house in the next couple of years? I don’t think so.”

Younger generations in particular believe large companies have little incentive to abuse privacy, Ghose added.

“Trust is fundamental in this relationship. The vast majority of large companies have very little incentive to abuse it—they are also thinking about long-term relationships,” Ghose said, dispelling the myth that firms want to abuse data and privacy because they acknowledge trust is very fragile and maintaining it is a win/win for the consumer and brand.

This story first appeared in the March 12, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.
@lisalacy lisa.lacy@adweek.com Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.