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Personal Data in Ecommerce – Why clarity is key for a great customer experience


Author: Richard Mathias

October 29, 2020

The disruption of the pandemic has resulted in consumers interacting digitally with brands more than ever, with many of us trying certain websites, apps or other commerce experiences for the first time.

These brands and retailers will be eager to nurture loyalty, and ensure consumers return to these platforms, particularly with the vital holiday eCommerce season just around the corner. And the notion of loyalty involves trust between buyer and brand. At this moment, it’s certainly not the time to be risking trust with consumers.

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A slip in trust, such as the recent example where consumers were confused with how their data was being shared between an online retailer and payment platform Klarna – could be potentially extremely damaging for the retailer in question.

What happened?

Most consumers are now familiar with Klarna as a buy-now-pay-later app and payment option. However, it is also a regular online payments provider, in a similar way that we might use Visa checkout or PayPal. Most consumers don’t take a lot of notice checking which provider hosts the checkout or payment page. We just input a few details, click a few boxes, and pay, without knowing that our data may be shared with the payment provider – as happened in this case with Klarna.

It’s there in the small print. You’ll notice on these checkout pages, “By clicking “Buy Now” I confirm that I have read Klarna’s Privacy Notice and Cookie Notice….” So, even though the consumer is not using the renowned Klarna ‘Pay in 30 Days’ option, they are still agreeing to share their information with Klarna, but probably without really knowing it.

It’s also possible that platforms such as Klarna are integrated within certain areas of a retailer’s website that consumers are possibly not aware of, gaining important user behavioural data.


Why was this a problem?

In this instance, we’re talking about the clarity and control in what we share with brands and third parties. Clear opt-in and opt-out capabilities and terms give users control. Providing flexibility in their settings, choices about their workflow, options around their data and absolute transparency allows customers to feel authentic engagement and build trust.

Although the tick box option protects retailers legally, this kind of user experience can feel a little manipulative, prioritising sharing personal data with a third party, as opposed to prioritising a clear, quality user experience.

A slip such as this can completely undermine that consumer trust element, and make us question those other elements of trust, which, in today’s ‘cancel culture’, can be extremely damaging.

Did Klarna do anything wrong?

Klarna didn’t do anything wrong. It provides its payment platform to retailers, and it’s fundamentally down to the retailer how it communicates to customers at the front end.

In fact, part of Klarna’s model is an analytics practice. Klarna applies wide-ranging analytics to many eCommerce sites, with the aim of improving the user experience for consumers. This often means tracking user behaviour across different stages of the buying journey, not just the checkout as we might assume, but it’s these learnings that provide us with better, faster, more personalised buying experiences.

This kind of practice allows a website to recognise a user’s device, and helps make websites work more efficiently, easily navigate between pages, remember preferences, and improve the overall experience, such as ensuring the adverts and content a consumer sees online are more relevant to their interests.


How else might companies use consumer data?

There are ways data can be carried with you, particularly on mobile. For example, if you remain logged in to a site, or don’t fully close the browser down – which is common when we use mobile – the site will be disclosing information on other visits, possibly even to partner or parent sites.

Another example is when a consumer is buying from a smaller brand of a large consumer goods company, perhaps some condiments, snacks or coffee, they’re probably not aware that their personal data could be put in a wider data pool with other sub-brands. Sooner or later, the same consumer might find they’re seeing targeted ads or emails for razors, shampoo or beauty products, without ever buying from these brands. Or, if you buy from online from a large supermarket, your data may be shared with other business functions – its mobile phone network, its bank, its insurance service for example.

Does mobile or social media make consumers more liable to sharing data?

For consumers, we balance what we’re prepared to share, with the convenience of a quick buying experience. And we’re often more likely to make this kind of compromise on mobile, where speed and convenience are major factors of why we use mobile to make purchases.

A good example of this is using the option of signing in with existing accounts – Facebook, Twitter, Apple or Google for example – when buying online. This feature is commonly used on mobile, with trusted and regularly used apps, to provide a faster, simpler and more convenient way to log in to retailer websites without having to create and remember countless different usernames and passwords.


In return, these apps – such as Facebook – share your public profile, such as your name and profile picture, email, phone number. But, where possible, many sites are trying to dig a little deeper than that.

For example, TripAdvisor might try and use your location history and activity to track where you have travelled and any reviews you have given.

For eCommerce sites, a similar practice could be applied to learn about visitors’ interests and preferences, enabling brands to provide a much better experience such as recommend products or offering suggestions based on their favorite activities.

What should retailers do?

Trust in eCommerce is wide-ranging, across an accumulation of interactions: product range and quality, delivery options and reliability, quality of experience, clarity and control in what we share, personal data management, customer service, payment security, loyalty rewards, brand ethics, and more. It can take one poor interaction to destroy this trust, perhaps by a blurry brand message or a ‘personalised’ interaction that missed the mark

For retailers to flourish in the modern age, they need to understand and incorporate the right digital strategies to meet the needs of their customer base. With the frequency of instore shopping diminishing, the online and post purchase experience has become the biggest reasons for retail success.


Author: Jim Butler

Richard Mathias | Director, Platform Services​, LiveArea EMEA

Richard Mathias is Director of Platform Services at LiveArea EMEA. An alumnus of Cambridge University who started his career at British Steel in Port Talbot, Richard is an experienced IT and commerce professional, having previously worked in strategy, consulting, technology and operations services provision. Richard specialises in bringing people, process, technology and innovation together to help B2C and B2B companies achieve measurable success.


Riding the B2B Wave

Riding the B2B Wave

It’s no secret that a new generation of business-to-business (B2B) customers is rising in the ranks of your clients’ organizations. Raised as “digital natives,” they expect a consumer-like experience while transacting business online. Now is the time to take B2B eCommerce in your business to the next level. But how?


Riding the B2B Wave

Riding the B2B Wave

It’s no secret that a new generation of business-to-business (B2B) customers is rising in the ranks of your clients’ organizations. Raised as “digital natives,” they expect a consumer-like experience while transacting business online. Now is the time to take B2B eCommerce in your business to the next level. But how?


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