Loyalty through greater data transparency. What can we learn from streaming services like Spotify?

Jan 22, 2020 |5 min read
spotify data transparency

On 5th December, the volume of Google searches for 'Spotify' was 5 times that of the previous day. Why? They'd released their Spotify Wrapped analysis to their users, an annual review of all the tracks, artists and albums that had dominated each subscriber's year in audio. 

Spotify has long been the dominant audio streaming service, chosen by over a third of streamers, and it's their excellent use of data that keeps them in the top spot. Not only does their algorithm recommend pitch perfect new artists and playlists to discover, but it also records listening behaviour and turns it into something fun, social and eminently shareable. One 2CVer (not me) admitted that not only was his top artist ABBA, but that Lily James, Amanda Seyfried and Christine Baranski also featured in his top 5 because he'd listened to their Mamma Mia film covers so many times; whilst another bemoaned that his 8 year old's use of his account meant that 'The Poo Poo Song' made it into his top songs playlist. The genius of Spotify Wrapped is that as soon as you hear someone else's list, you immediately want to know which artists made it onto your own - and then share that too.

It's a clever move. Businesses analysing the data that their users have agreed to share, in order to grow business further, is par for the course in the digital age. But serving that data back to users in a fun way helps individuals to feel that the balance of the data exchange is being shifted back in their favour - even though, in reality, the brand actually benefits too, through exposure and likely increased brand love and loyalty.

In 2019, a roster of brands cottoned onto this win-win approach to data - some more successfully than others. Sainsburys made available a Nectar 'Year in Review', which revealed to one 2CVer that their 2nd most bought product of the year was Gu chocolate puddings (OK…this one was me). Monzo's annual year in review tells spenders their top spots for eating out, Grab in Singapore sends out a monthly update on users' spending on rides taken and food orders placed, and Cineworld sends out a round-up to Unlimited card holders of how many movies they've seen, their top genre and how much money they've saved by being a member. Fun, shareable and engaging - with the benefit of increasing brand engagement and loyalty.

There are risks, though, to this approach. Data reflects human behaviour, so what happens when that behaviour is something you might not be so proud of? I can take the Gu puddings stat with a pinch of salt, but if I were struggling with my eating behaviour, might I have felt differently? Brands that make these data round-ups available to customers must also acknowledge that they have a role to play in customer care by allowing vulnerable customers to opt out.

There's also the risk that if a brand reveals to their customer just how much they know about them, that customer might think twice about how much they're willing to share, limiting the brand's ability to analyse and monetise that data in the future. It seemed that Google were well attuned to this risk when they sent out their Google Maps Timeline, a summary of all the places each user had visited in the year. The email was bookended by clarifications about their privacy policy, and a link for users to change their settings. This intuitively feels like a best practice example: when a brand tells its users about all the data it holds on them, the least it can do (not just morally, but legally) is to tell them how they can manage that data or stop it being collected in the future.

Brands that want to capitalise on the end of year review should therefore keep some key guidelines in mind when putting it together. Firstly, as these become more and more prolific, consider how to stand out in an increasingly cluttered space. Then, think about how your consumer might react, and if there could be any adverse reactions to the data you're sharing with them that you should put measures in place to prevent. And finally, remember that the consumer's data remains their own. As a brand, your consumer is trusting you to look after their data - and the law strictly requires that you do. So treat that data with respect, consider how you can give value back to your consumer through using it well, and make sure you tell them how they can opt out if they need to.

Ultimately, data shows us the weird and wonderful world of human behaviour, creating stories and revealing things we may not even know about ourselves. Brands are uniquely positioned to celebrate and have fun with it - and if done right, they can reap benefits along the way.

In our next instalment of this series, we'll explore further how socially minded brands can inspire positive behavioural change through data