We as humans have a natural tendency to feel uneasy when matters are out of our control. As consumers digest more and more disparate pieces of information on the Internet, they become frustrated and unnerved. They demand from brands the freedom to connect and the choices with which to dictate their digital experiences to be best-suited for them personally. Without it, the result is inaction.

It’s no secret that the Internet is flooded with vast amounts of data, such as the over 2 million Google searches conducted per minute. Customers are not blind to this, although it is important to distinguish awareness from knowledge. Awareness may lead to misinformation and ultimately, to avid protection and denial of information. Education, however, can lift the veil and diminish the creepy feeling of Big Data to let users to understand when, how, and why you’re using this crucial data.

In a trial over the past year, department store giant and digital leader of the space Nordstrom implemented sensors throughout their physical stores to track signals from shoppers’ smartphones to measure traffic and behavior. Without explicit notification nor opt-in to the program, shoppers were not happy when they were informed with what was going on, and with that the test period was closed.

Being asked for information or permissions seemingly arbitrarily raises a red flag for users. Like someone you just met asking about your political beliefs, it’s an unpleasant moment and raises a reaction of shutdown and guard. Being perceived as a threat to privacy will ultimately damage a relationship with a customer as users struggle for security.

While data is the emerging core of understanding users and trends in the digital space, the user’s preference for privacy cannot be ignored. At the same time, it is critical to make good use of data that is yielded to provide true value to customers to ensure their continuous approval of data collection. They need to see their return on investment materialize to be made worth their while. In a recent survey, we found that 60% of respondents are comfortable with providing data to companies in order to receive a more customized experience. With that, a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties emerges.

Consumers seek the ability to tailor how they communicate with brands. As they continue to express their pain and pleasure points, they become sick of brands that don’t listen and in addition, also demand regulating when brands talk to them. When thousands of emails flood users’ inboxes everyday, the ‘Unsubscribe’ button to newsletters become all the more tempting. To combat the end-all tactic in one foul swoop, provide options for the recipient to choose the appropriate amount of communication for them. It may be simply less.

Brands that aren’t hitting the mark will need to rethink their business and thought process to focus less on their needs, and more on their customers’. With this, their goals will inevitably be met by a group of brand user advocates in a flourishing relationship. By upholding their ability to listen, creating value from data, and providing flexible options for user’s unique preferences, brands will thrive with proven utility to their customers.