Will Consumers Punish Retailers That Misuse CRM Data?

A loyalty card that consumers can turn on and off could potentially usher in a consumer revolution of sorts, allowing the majority to punish merchants they see as misusing CRM data that has been entrusted to them. At least that's one scenario painted by the president of the company that is pushing the card.

Steve Ely, president of Equifax, was discussing his announcement from last week that would give consumers the ability to decide with whom they will share their shopping history.

Beyond the simple fact that a consumer with such a card could decide to cut off a particular chain's access to the CRM data juice to which they have grown addicted, Ely argues that his firm could leverage the masses of consumers. In so doing, he could tell consumers which retailers have been disappointing a certain percentage of their fellow consumers.

Ultimately, Ely said, Equifax might cut off retailers directly if their score dropped too low.

"This puts power in the hands of consumers, creating loyalty for retailers that deserve it," he said.

How far Equifax would ever truly want to take this—alienating large retail chains may not prove to be a profitable strategic goal—is unclear, as is the question of how many consumers will opt to use Equifax's on-off card and, for that matter, how many retailers would accept it.

Equifax already has extensive data on some 200 million consumers so future business models that leverage data access is of strong interest.