In the article “Would you trade your privacy for convenience?” I shared my observations on brands adding convenience, building trust with consumers while removing the psychological barriers to sharing information deemed as “private”. In this article I want to focus on a social experiment we conducted to discover if people would share private information if enough convenience was provided. As we spoke with the local municipalities about this topic, we learned that there was a great need to help improve the overall quality of life within their community. We set out to design a technology ecosystem that could be easily deployed in a public space, whether it was a mall or a concentrated area of town with a lot of foot traffic. This technology ecosystem was comprised of a Wayfinder, a Mobile app paired with a loyalty program and a cloud based dashboard.

Wave to get started (The Wayfinder.)

You’ve seen those directories in your local mall that have a map of where all of the stores are located with that orange dot that says “you are here”. For the experiment, we designed an interactive, gesture controlled smart directory. Interactive directories exist, but very few of these interactive directories collect data.

All you had to do was walk up to it, wave your hand and the directory would come to life.

The directory was wifi and iBeacon enabled allowing for reporting activity back to a cloud-based dashboard in real-time.  All you had to do was walk up to it, wave your hand and the directory would come to life. It didn’t matter if you were tall, short or handicapped the directory used your hand gestures for navigation. When the wayfinder was idle it became a digital billboard that was collecting demographics on the shoppers nearby that may have noticed the advertisement.

A Loyalty Program – (The Mobile app.)

With any experiment you’ve gotta have an app, right? We tailor made an app that combined all of the features of the directory-wayfinder with a loyalty program. Users of the app were able to access an indoor map of the mall to quickly get the answers they needed. The app also anonymously reported the foot-traffic patterns of customers back to the dashboard. This gave the mall owners more insights on how to design their shopping experience. The app also let users control their level of participation by allowing them to opt-in or out of context-aware marketing pushed to their device.

The Cloud Dashboard.

Bringing everything together, we designed a cloud-based dashboard. It served multiple purposes. It was ground zero for all patron activity in the mall or public space. Using a heat-map overlaid on the floor plan the dashboard was able to pinpoint activity down to a specific area of the mall while gathering data on the related demographical information. The directory could also be managed through the cloud to add or remove a store from the listing. The dashboard also gave us the ability to manage the advertisements that ran on the directories when it was inactive.

Our findings.

…users stated that they would share their shopping habits if they knew they would get a discount.

Most users didn’t mind sharing their location and demographic information if they knew their experience at the public space would be better. And with the loyalty program, when polled, users stated that they would download an app and share their shopping habits if they knew they would get a discount or deal on the things that they wanted. We spoke with many municipalities and retail outlets. Everyone that we shared the vision of the experiment with, saw the opportunities the ecosystem empowered them with to build a better customer experience for their patrons. With the promise of increased customer engagement, higher ROI on advertisement spend, and better data analytics on to aid in making the overall experience better.


When you think of your visit to the doctor, for whatever reason we are accustomed to sharing every known detail about our medical history, our marital status, where we live and what we ate for breakfast. We know that if we don’t share enough information there is a chance that the care we receive may not be as good or tailored to us. God forbid the practitioner isn’t HIPAA Compliant and the information we share gets stolen or misused. We immediately become skeptical about sharing our information again.

…the perception of what feels like sensitive information depends on the expectation of what one would receive in return for sharing it.

When brands learn to create the same level of trust that we have for handling of our medical information the medical industry, users will voluntarily give whatever information they deem necessary to get the best experience from that brand.

In our experiment we treated all personal data as a demographic rather than individualized data. We gave the users control over the level of their participation through the mobile app. We made it clear as to the type of information that would be shared and communicated the added convenience they would receive by opting-in. Over time as brands begin to implement these best practices in their experiences the general population become more and more open to exchanging their privacy for convenience. The reality is the perception of what feels like sensitive information depends on the expectation of what one would receive in return for sharing it.

Mike Gonzalez is the founder of Perfect, and spends his time working with organizations to craft great experiences. Have a project you would like to collaborate with us on?