Only a minority of US consumers have complete trust that companies protect their personal information online, according to the Q2 2012 TRUSTe Privacy Index. And yet a majority of digital marketers say that personalization is fundamental to their online strategy, and a plurality rely on personal data, per an Econsultancy report [download page] also released in June, in association with Adobe. 53% of the TRUSTe survey respondents either somewhat (38%) or strongly (15%) disagreed that they fully trust that companies protect their personal information. In the Q1 index, just 41% disagreed with the statement that they trust most companies with their personal information online. The 12% point jump in mistrust from one quarter to the next could be a reflection of growing skepticism among consumers, but could also be due to changes in the wording of the statement respondents were asked to indicate their agreement with.
Recent research conducted by Future Foundation and published by the UK-based Direct Marketing Association (DMA) indicates that it’s not just American consumers who demonstrate an unease with sharing personal information online. In fact, according to the DMA UK study, the proportion of “privacy fundamentalists” (who resist exchanging their details regardless of the benefits) has risen from 25% in 1997 to 31% this year.
Overall, 93% of the TRUSTe Q2 survey respondents believe businesses have a responsibility to protect their privacy online, a small dip from 95% who felt that way in Q1. And consumers are ready to act when they feel like their privacy has been violated: 88% either strongly (57%) or somewhat (31%) agree that they avoid doing business with companies who they do not believe protect their business online. This avoidance rises alongside education level – from 85% of respondents with a high school education or less to 92% of college graduates.
Companies will need to do a better job of gaining – and keeping – consumers’ trust if they are to continue with their current online strategies. According to the Econsultancy report, 52% of digital marketers from around the globe agree that the ability to personalize content is fundamental to their online strategy, compared to just 27% who disagree with that statement. The importance of earning consumer trust is underscored by the finding that a plurality (34%) of digital marketers are personalizing the online experience based on personal data (such as name, gender, and location).
Further data from Econsultancy’s “Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing” indicates that 37% of digital marketers believe that the use of data will expand, slowly, as demand for real-time services is balanced by legal and cultural resistance coming from the privacy debate. A further 26% feel that the use of data will only expand as companies and their customers rely on real-time demands and services, and that privacy concerns will be secondary to service for consumers.
If this expansion of data use is to be the case, then marketers will need to cross a significant barrier: the 91% of consumers (at least in the US) that at least sometimes worry about their privacy online.
About the Data: The TRUSTe report is based on an online survey of more than 2,000 US online adults conducted by independent research firm Harris Interactive in June 2012. The Econsultancy data is based on an online survey of more than 400 client-side and agency respondents, the majority of whom are based in North America and the UK.
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