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Gut Feelings with Regard to Data Disclosure

Affective reactions—or gut feelings—play a key role in consumer decision-making. Researchers at the University of Passau are seeking to understand this process better and help consumers make better decisions. By Kathrin Haimerl

Researchers are generally regarded as rational people. However, their research occasionally makes them aware of their own irrationality. This is what happened to the information-systems specialist Philipp Sleziona and the marketing researcher Alina Grüner when they were familiarizing themselves with the literature relating to their project. “I was most surprised by sociopsychological studies and experiments on decision-making. Until then, I really thought that I behave relatively logically,” says Sleziona. Grüner reports: “Since then, I have been much more cautious and have thought more deeply about the decision of when and how I disclose data and which data I disclose.”

Research into the Effects of Data Exchange in Business Networks

Sleziona and Grüner are doctoral candidates at two different chairs in the Faculty of Business, Economics and Information Systems at the University of Passau. However, they are conducting interdisciplinary research as part of a joint project, namely the DFG project “BNDE – Beyond the Dyad: Effects of Business Network Data Exchange on the Privacy Calculus.” BNDE stands for Business Network Data Exchange—i.e., for the increasingly common practice whereby companies share customer data with other companies. Professor Jan Schumann, holder of the Chair of Marketing and Innovation, and Professor Thomas Widjaja, holder of the Chair of Business Information Systems, are managing the project together.

Modern technology allows companies to comprehensively collect and analyze customer data. They are also increasingly exchanging this data with other companies. One example of this would be the music streaming service Spotify, which uses user data in a corporate network of advertisers, concert providers, and other third-party companies. However, traditional sectors, such as the automotive and aviation industry and the retail sector, are also developing business models that are based on the exchange and exploitation of consumer data. 

Research has established the privacy calculus approach to account for the moment of decision. This video explains what it is all about:

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The theory of privacy calculus reaches its limits in the era of data exchange in business networks. This is where the research by Sleziona and Grüner comes in. They want to better understand how the customers’ decision-making process occurs and what drives it. “This may, for example, be their motivation, conditioned by the circumstances in which the decision is made,” says Grüner. She explains this using the example of a flashlight app: “If I am out and about on my own in the dark and am urgently looking for something, then I might be highly motivated to disclose my data in this moment.” According to her, value alignment—i.e., the relationship between the data and service—also plays a role: “When I purchase a shirt or a blouse, it is clear to me that I will be asked for data about my size, weight, and girth.” However, this is not the case with the flashlight app.

Marketingforscherin Alina Grüner; Foto: Studio Weichselbaumer

Alina Grüner in a conversation with Philipp Sleziona. Pictures: Studio Weichselbaumer

Transparency Does Not Always Lead to Better Decisions

In the project, Grüner is concentrating on the angle of marketing. Here, the young researcher can fall back upon the chair’s findings from past experiments. For example, the team led by Professor Schumann proved that transparency regarding business processes does not always help customers to make more rational decisions. “On the contrary. The more complex the process behind it, the more pronounced the affective decision-making behavior,” says Professor Schumann

Grüner is already familiar with the chair from her studies: she was a student assistant there. During her master’s thesis, she enjoyed the research work. She investigated the strategic focus of data-driven start-ups in comparison with established companies. “I enjoyed generating added value.”

The information-systems specialist Sleziona joined the team from the outside. He moved from Stuttgart to Passau in December 2020, shortly before the lockdown. In his case, it was the subject and the interdisciplinary approach that appealed to him: “The question of data disclosure is omnipresent. We are constantly using applications in which we send data. It is exciting to investigate this process from various perspectives.” 

Wirtschaftsinformatiker Philipp Sleziona; Foto: Studio Weichselbaumer

International Digital Communication on the Subject of the Platform Economy

Selziona’s mission is to use the findings on decision-making to infer characteristics for how business networks should be structured so that they are accepted by customers. However, the young researcher is keeping an eye on the customer’s perspective, as well as the company’s: “The goal is to develop concepts so that consumers can make better decisions in such complex situations.”

The pandemic has made the arrival in his new city more difficult for him. Sleziona and Grüner do meet regularly on Zoom to exchange ideas. “But we are currently unable to talk to one another directly in the corridor, which is what often leads to the best ideas,” he reports. 

In spite of this, however, international digital communication at the University of Passau on the subject of the platform economy is set to become all the more lively this summer semester: an interdisciplinary team of researchers, including Professor Schumann and Professor Widjaja, has organized a public lecture series on the subject of “Digital Platform Ecosystems (DPE).” Guests from all over the world will tune into Passau for a Zoom webinar in order to report their latest research findings and discuss them with the next generation of researchers.

The original article has been published on the portal Research in Bavaria

Professor Jan Schumann

Professor Jan Hendrik Schumann

researches consumer behavior in B2C relationships

How does it affect people when firms pass on their data?

How does it affect people when firms pass on their data?

Professor Jan Hendrik Schumann has held the Chair of Marketing and Innovation of the University of Passau since 2012. He is also one of the principal investigators of the DFG Research Training Group 2720. Since July 2013, he has also worked a director of the Institute of Market and Economic Research.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Widjaja

Professor Thomas Widjaja

researches on IT architecture management, data-based business models, and privacy

What changes when companies develop new services using customer data?

What changes when companies develop new services using customer data?

Professor Thomas Widjaja has held the Chair of Business Information Systems since 2016. He is also one of the principal investigators of the DFG Research Training Group 2720. Previously, he gained his doctoral and postdoctoral degrees at TU Darmstadt.

DFG-Projekt zu "Business Network Data Exchange": Unternehmen tauschen Kundendaten zu Werbezwecken untereinander aus und können zudem neue Produkte und Dienstleistungen entwickeln. Symbolbild: Colourbox

How data exchange in company networks influences users’ decisions concerning disclosure

On the Internet, clients’ data is increasingly exchanged between companies. How does this impact users’ decisions to disclose data? This question is investigated by information systems and marketing business researchers at the University of Passau in a project funded by the DFG.

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