Trend Alert: Shiru Café

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest brands, products and services that are trending with 16-24s.

There’s a new café chain expanding across the US’s most prestigious college campuses with a unique payment method. Shiru Café offers students at Ivy League universities free coffee and tea in return for providing personal information and consent to be contacted by partner companies.

The Japanese chain is already a hit in Asia, where clients include Microsoft, Accenture and JP Morgan, and its first US location at Brown University, Providence, is buzzing with students socialising and studying. Their corporate partners are not focused on marketing to the café’s customers but recruiting them. The strategy has been effective in Japan, where in 2016, 40% of JP Morgan’s new hires were Shiru patrons.

Shiru is one of the most explicit examples of a growing trend towards data being used as currency. Many cafés and other businesses offer free wifi to customers in return for data, but allowing them to pay for a core service with data is much less common. Shiru is primarily a B2B company, disguised as B2C, as its main source of income is its corporate partners. This business model is likely to become far more prevalent in the future.

The value of data is a hot topic at the moment, especially in the wake of privacy scandals and the introduction of GDPR. Personal data has even been described as “the new oil,” as businesses race to gain access to as much as possible before consumers come to understand its true value. Currently, students and other young people understand that giving their data is a form of payment for goods or services, but are happy to offer it when the reward is worthwhile. This could change in the future as awareness grows around the value of personal data and the ways that brands and corporations use it for profit.

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