What does it take for UK consumers to part with their data?
A view from John Fleming

What does it take for UK consumers to part with their data?

What would it take for you to hand over your personal data to a brand? A free lunch? A discount from your favourite fashion label? Or are you happy to just give it all up? John Fleming marketing director at Webtrends investigates.

We recently surveyed 2,000 British consumers to find out how they feel about sharing their personal data with brands, and the results surprised us.

We’re a diverse bunch – there’s certainly no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

The common perception is that Britons are terrified of ‘Big Brother’ watching them, but our research reveals this isn’t quite the case when it comes to brands. It turns out that Brits are a fairly relaxed bunch when it comes to sharing their data with businesses. In fact, more than half (58 per cent) say they’re not concerned about the amount of data they share with brands.

There’s an obvious generation gap in the evidence. 18-24 year olds are least concerned about sharing personal data with brands – 68 per cent believe the amount they share is currently about right or are not bothered about it, followed by 64 per cent of 25-34 year olds. These younger generations have grown up in a far more connected, data-centric world and often recognise the "tit for tat" benefits of sharing personal info with their favourite brands.

At the other end of the spectrum, older consumers – who grew up in a world where the internet wasn’t yet a twinkle in Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s eye – are much more cautious. Half of those aged 55 and over object to sharing any data with brands.

However, attitudes are continually evolving. Just 19 per cent of all respondents say they don’t like receiving personalised content from brands, showing that people realise the benefits that sharing information brings, even if some are still not comfortable with the idea of sharing information generally.

Relevancy ultimately breeds trust – consumers don’t want to hand over their details only to get an influx of unwanted, irrelevant spam marketing in return. But as brands continue to enhance and personalise their customers’ experiences, the perception of these brands will improve and data sharing will inevitably increase.

Matching the right offer to the right person

We wanted to find out what price Britons put on their data – what would persuade a reluctant Brit to share their personal information? It seems a free lunch won’t quite cut it, but one in three say they could be persuaded to give up their personal data for a discount on clothes (36 per cent), free delivery (31 per cent) or a discount on a holiday or travel (28 per cent).

This differs markedly across the country – for example, in Portsmouth just 6 per cent of residents would share more data for a free lunch, but this figure rises to 30 per cent for Liverpudlians. Likewise, only 24 percent of Edinburgh residents would share more for a clothing discount, compared to 46 per cent of those living in Brighton.

What this demonstrates is that we’re a diverse bunch – there’s certainly no ‘one size fits all’ solution. But what if your customers simply don’t want to give you their data? Another interesting insight from our research is the range of consumer attitudes to the type of businesses that request their data.

For instance, 64 per cent of Britons are happy to share their name and email address with a retail brand, but this reduces to just 17 per cent when it comes to more detailed information, such as their home address or income level. Likewise, while 49 per cent would share basic info with a travel company, when asked for detailed information this drastically reduces to 10 per cent. And – rather uncharitably – just 5 per cent of people say they would share this level of detail with a charity.

Why is this? Brands often have to compete with legacy perceptions – for example, people may have had a bad experience with a charity using their information for persistent communications and telemarketing. Alternatively, consumers sometimes forget to uncheck the marketing tick box and then get deluged with irrelevant and untimely offers.

So how can your business overcome this?  Yet again, it’s about being smarter with your customers’ data. Data analysis enables you to personalise your communications, time them more appropriately and engage with your customers in the way they prefer. If you get all of this right, the result will be greater brand perception, loyalty and trust – a win-win-win.

The next level of personalisation

As consumer attitudes evolve, the door is open for your business to be more creative and innovative in how you use personal data to give your customers the personalised, exciting and engaging experiences they seek. This is not the simple personalised email message with your name in the subject line that we’ve become increasingly used to, but rich ‘tailor-made’ communications across all channels.

Big data can open up opportunities to engage with customers in ways brands have only previously dreamt of. With widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets, your business can accumulate in-the-moment data that can help to develop truly personalised, relevant connections with target audiences in ways that were previously unimaginable.

We’re on the brink of a whole new world of personalised marketing. Until now, personalisation has usually involved using a combination of known profile information and historical data. What’s been missing is the ability to combine these factors with real-time information such as in-the-moment browsing data, the device a customer is using, their specific location and their stage in the purchase cycle.

Technological advances allow us to bring all of these factors together in the next level of personalised marketing: contextual personalisation. It allows brands to deliver targeted and relevant experiences to a customer based on their specific needs at that exact moment in time – giving the customer what they want, when they want it and where they want it.

Contextual personalisation is also the catalyst for more exciting innovations that allow marketers to marry the online world with the ‘real’ offline world. Imagine if you knew what your customers wanted before they even entered your store – everything from their shopping habits, likes, dislikes and previous purchases – and could then use this information to drive their in-store experience. This is what contextual personalisation, combined with new technologies such as Apple’s iBeacon, enables – it uses consumers’ known online behaviour data to drive offline sales.

We are entering a future where context is everything – technological advances will open the doors to a new world of experiential marketing that’s highly tuned to the individual’s wants and needs. Underpinning these new frontiers of personalisation are analytics and optimisation. Get the data and the delivery right, and success will follow.