When Big Data Becomes Bad Data, a Rite Aid Story

November 2, 2014

Lisa Apolinski

Lisa Apolinski is a professional speaker, blogger, and digital strategist. With her company, 3DogWrite.com, she works with event managers to get their message to attendees, particularly through digital channels, on and off the show floor.

I was having a great conversation this week on Rite Aid’s decision to disable the ability to use Apply Pay and Google Wallet because of their contractual obligations with CurrentC.  After doing some digging and reading up, this seems to be a case of corporations and big data gone bad.

So, when does getting your hands on that data become an issue, and how do you balance data capture with great user experience?  Let’s examine the Rite Aid story and see what went wrong.

The act of the capture: Many of the complaints about CurrentC are around asking for sensitive data up front (like your driver’s license and social security number).  You haven’t even seen how the mobile pay system will work, and they are asking for personal information.  The question users have is ‘why’?  One comment was “Are these people high? They expect me to give them my social security and driver's license number just to use their <holding back laughter> QR code payment system?  The Target hacking fiasco of last year illustrates exactly why I don't want info like my SSN or DL# on some hacker-tempting server.”   

When you think about your attendees, give them the option of what they will provide and build a foundation of trust before you ask. Provide information on the company and features and benefits of your products and services first. Asking for too much data too soon feels like a scam for many users.

Benefiting the user experience: The second big issue is that the users are feeling they are using an unsecure system just to provide a company with data and using antiquated technology.  The comment about on the QR code echoes many sentiments posted about the system.  One commenter went so far as to say “I would sooner cut my right hand off than use CurrentC!” That seems a bit dramatic, but the sentiment is the same: there needs to be a clear benefit between the user providing data and what the user experiences.  In venue management, the experience has to be stellar and give more than what the attendee expects.  This is where strong demonstrations and lectures in-booth come in, providing that great user experience.

If there is no benefit to the user, why would they provide their incredibly valuable data to you?

Refusing the sale for the data:  I was almost shocked by the last comment I read, which was a review on iTunes.  The comment had all the elements above and then went to the last, and quite powerful, point: “[P]olicies around stores using this payment system lock out any other mobile friendly ways of paying, like anything that uses NFC, for no other reason than that they can't track data on you as well if you don't use their system. That locks out things like Google wallet and Apple Pay. Here's a novel idea, take my money, however I want to hand it you when I want to pay for something. If you don't want my money, well, I guess good luck with that business model.”

While I tout collecting data, I would never recommend data collection over revenue collection. The idea behind data collection is to learn how to get to the sale.  This is where the desire for the Holy Grail of Data may have confused the higher ups at Rite Aid. Because at the end of the day, the sale and the customer’s satisfaction are what matter.  FYI, my sibling texted me that the Rite Aid rewards card doesn’t give you any real discounts, and is probably just another way to collect data.  His final words: “Tear up that card. Now.”

Don’t let big data become bad data and alienating your prospects and clients as a result.

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