Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Kepes covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to aviation technology, enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.
How concerned do consumers need to be about privacy today; how do you handle this issue in your own life?
Kepes: I am either incredibly naïve or very relaxed or a combination of the two. So long as someone doesn’t get my bank account or other intimate details, I don’t really care. The saying, “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear,” is not quite that simple. But to some extent, it’s true. All of my Facebook photos are public. I feel kind of sorry for those people who want to look at my running pictures, but I’m really not concerned about it. I frequently receive ads on my social media pages for running products, and even though I don’t buy products from ads, I’d rather be pitched those type of products than others. This type of targeting is not bad, although it is annoying. As the consumer, you can choose to ignore these ads very easily.
There has been a rise in the use of ad blocking tech. What does that mean for digital marketers and the quest for personalization?
Kepes: Ad blockers are marginally effective and advertisers will find ways to work around them. Those tools are not really addressing privacy concerns but preventing really intrusive ads– those annoying pop-ups that block you from seeing content. Advertisers and media companies need to do a better job with this and realize that pop-ups really don’t work and come up with better ways to target their audiences.
How can marketers improve their efforts at personalization?
Kepes: I think that consumers are getting very tired of this coarse method of targeting. I am constantly being pitched trail running shoes, but I just bought a couple of pairs and I’m not going to be buying any more for a while. But I still get the ads on Facebook and Google. To be more effective, personalization needs to be more refined. An example of how you could do this is: I travel a lot, and when I arrive in a new city, I’d like to find a coffee shop quickly. Google perhaps knows I just got off my flight and then tells me here is a highly recommended coffee shop with free Wifi and a coupon as well. For me, that would be a great form of personalization. Google could actually do this today, but they haven’t, because there are too many concerns around the public backlash of tracking people and being creepy.
How should identity software be incorporated into personalization strategies?
Kepes: Broadly speaking, there’s probably an opportunity for a central, universal system of storing all consumer identity data, but in the post-Edward Snowden age, I can’t see that happening on a global scale. Storing all customer data in one place at a company level however is very useful. One problem though is on getting critical mass from the consumer perspective. People today want to have control around how a company can use their data. If the company makes it difficult or time-consuming to fill out a form on their website with preferences, individuals just going to say forget it. It’s not worth my time. So companies really need to demonstrate and offer to customers the value of them sharing their data. Ultimately, there’s got to be a strong benefit to the individual.