Key takeaways

  • Data is key to offering a successful Connected Retail model.
  • Report predicts that ownership of data will move from organisations to consumers.
  • Digital identity will soon exist on a platform outside of any “commercial or legal context”, with plenty of scope for new business models.

Enabled by mobile devices and 24/7 connectivity, the ‘always on’ customer has been a driving force in the evolution of retail. The ubiquity of digital technology means that they expect a seamless connection between the physical store, online channels, customer experience, supply chain and marketing.

As technology has progressed, so too have the needs and expectations of the customer. Desiring immediate, relevant and quality interactions, they increasingly seek to be engaged through personalised experiences. The successful brands, therefore, will be those that can listen closely and respond to the customer’s individual needs.

The engine to power this model of Connected Retail is data – and it’s the consumer’s desire to protect and control their growing data footprint that could drive the next wave of change for retailers.

Taking the controls of data

Consumers are digitally creating and sharing more information than ever before. They’re also more aware of its value, as cyber attacks raiding customer details from businesses become both more frequent and conspicuous (think Ashley Madison and health insurer Anthem).

Consequently, not only does the ‘always on’ customer want to connect with brands, but they’re also conscious of how far they can trust organisations to protect their information.

Released this week, a white paper by the PwC Chair in Digital Economy argues that eventually, users will come to own all their digital personal data in one central platform.

The evolution of digital identity

Digital Identity 3.0 – The Platform for the People presents an outline for the next stage of digital identity. It argues that digital identity is to be wrested back from the hands of corporations to exist in the domain of the user, where it can be controlled, curated and cultivated for growth by the individual.

While the concept is not entirely new, the paper does state that the digital economy has finally reached a level of maturity that can facilitate ‘digital identity 3.0’ becoming reality. This presents opportunities for retailers and other businesses to connect with their customer in new and compelling ways.

In its earliest form, digital identity was merely the digital rendition of a user’s information. Afterwards it became a ‘two-way street’, which allowed for online authentication to facilitate the exchange of goods and services. The next stage, 3.0, expects to take this concept to network level – creating a platform for anyone and everyone to exchange information, which is owned and centrally managed by the user.

Who owns personal data – and what to do with it

Inevitably, personal data will become “a private and integrated master record that exists independently of any immediate commercial or legal context”, says the report. A digital identity 3.0 platform “empowers people to create new attributes, share these attributes selectively as they connect with others, and create experiences and value beyond what can be predicted.”

The report highlights five core characteristics:

  • Users no longer want to hand their data to numerous entities that impose their own terms and conditions. A digital identity platform owned by the consumer would put them in charge of their own information and allow them to update it in one central location.
  • With all information integrated in a single digital identity platform, the individual’s preferences and attributes would be more widely and easily discernible. This could lead to enterprises better predicting events and changes in user attributes or habits.
  • Organisations, empowered to understand and satisfy the needs of their customers, could proactively address issues before the customer raises them.
  • Information wouldn’t be restricted within one ecosystem or purpose. Owners could create their own information fields and formats, which opens the door to myriad future data scenarios and potential business models.
  • Digital identity 3.0 should allow for users to connect their identity with those of their networks – a fundamental facet of the sharing economy.

How can organisations benefit?

In our recent PwC report Connecting with Tomorrow’s Customer… now, we described the customer of the future. Integrating their needs with this new paradigm for digital identity presents a number of opportunities for businesses:

Track dynamic behaviour more easily…

With broader interests and more changes in routine than ever before, keeping up with customer preferences will present a challenge. A centralised digital identity regularly updated by the user allows organisations to better keep pace with these dynamic customers.

…and respond to it effectively

Tomorrow’s customer will remain loyal to brands that offer a personalised and purposeful experience. With potentially unlimited data values on offer, there are plenty of new curatorial and engagement possibilities.

They like to experiment, so why don’t you?

The connected customer accepts and expects innovation. The freedom to share data surrounding their own identity could lead to any number of possibilities. Proactive services could be pulled in based on this information – so what form will they take?

Whilst there are still some challenges that face the building of this new paradigm, the emerging opportunities for digital identity can offer compelling new Connected Retail experiences. Are you ready to sign up?

Access the full white paper, Digital Identity 3.0 – The Platform for the People, for free at the PwC Chair in Digital Economy website.



John Riccio

John is a former partner at PwC Australia and the founder of Digital Pulse.

More About John Riccio