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Not too long ago, transparency was not something the business community placed much value on. Organizations operated with the idea that their practices and ideas were best kept a secret from the competition and the customer.

But the tides are changing, and businesses across industries are waking up to the possibility that opaque practices are holding them back, as consumers increasingly want free access to information to make informed decisions about their business.

Startup companies are finding opportunities to rapidly increase their market share as they take steps to build trust and empower their customers with answers.

We’re taking a look at how transparency can benefit your business and some of the companies already putting transparency into practice.

Disrupting Traditional Business with Transparency

Adopting transparency as a core value of your business can set you up for success against big players who stick to traditional ways of doing business, including keeping consumers in the dark about what they do and how they justify their prices.

Dynamic online marketplace Nobul has taken this approach to the real estate industry. Under the usual way of doing things, home buyers and sellers get very little information about their real estate agent. They don’t get to see an agent’s past transactions and may not even fully understand how their commission fees work.

Nobul turns that relationship on its head. On the platform, real estate agents compete for home buyers and sellers, while consumers get more information about agents than ever before. Agents make a proposal including their fee rate, their range of service options, and information about their past transactions. Consumers can also look at verified reviews of agents.

Founder and CEO Regan McGee says, “We’ve massively simplified the whole process. People think buying and selling real estate is complicated, but that’s a way for agents to justify their fees.”

Transparency for Millennial and Gen Z Consumers

Younger consumers, specifically those in the Millennial and Generation Z demographics, are more concerned than ever about where their purchases come from. They want to know that they were ethically produced in a way not excessively harmful to the environment or exploitative.

Outerwear company Patagonia has responded with unprecedented transparency about its supply chain. While other companies have been caught off guard when information comes to light about environmentally harmful or exploitative practices from manufacturers or distributors, Patagonia has launched a campaign that tracks its supply chain and publicly reports on the progress of companies further up or down that chain.

Transparency in the Age of Big Data

Data collection is everywhere today, and not just online. The prevalence of mobile phones has led to a huge increase in data collection in the real world, tracking where people go and when. It’s created a world where Google can tell you when the grocery store is busiest but also collects anonymized data about when you do your grocery shopping.Google is an important test case in big data transparency. The Harvard Business Review found that about two-thirds of consumers were willing to share their own data with Google in exchange for information that benefited them, such as more accurate travel time information. It’s a case of trade-offs for consumers that balances personal privacy with the benefits of greater access to more detailed information.

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Eric Hammer is a personal finance expert and writer based in Washington state.

Eric graduated from Excelsior College, a distance learning school accredited by the Middle States Association and the New York State Board of Regents (the same organizations that accredit Columbia University, New York University, Cornell University, etc.).

Eric actually held lots of different jobs, including such varied positions as a sales clerk, paralegal, surveyor’s assistant, community rabbi and English teacher, to name just a few.

He has since learned how to manage money wisely and uses his experience to help others make smart financial decisions. Today, his work appears on sites like Demand Studios and Bright Hub.