Consumers Wary of Sharing Personal Data With Retailers

September 10, 2015

ZebraTech-Consumer-Comfort-Privacy-Shopping-Experience-Sept2015Only 4 in 10 consumers surveyed in 12 countries say they’re comfortable receiving personalized text message offers from retailers, and even fewer are comfortable sharing personal information while making purchases, finds Zebra Technologies in a recently-released study [pdf]. The results are interesting in light of separate research from Aimia [pdf] finding that most consumers will share at least some information with companies.

According to the Aimia survey, of more than 20,000 consumers across the globe, more than 8 in 10 respondents will share name, email address and nationality with companies, and at least 7 in 10 will share their date of birth, hobbies and occupation. Within the US, 51% of 18-34-year-olds reported being willing to share their mobile phone number with companies, though that figure dropped to 30% among Boomers. The report stresses that trust, rather than desire for rewards, is at the heart of willingness to share information. And more than two-thirds of respondents reportedly said they “understand why they have to share personal information with companies to receive better offers.”

That type of rationale recently came under fire in a University of Pennsylvania survey entitled “The Tradeoff Fallacy” [pdf]. According to that study, “a majority of Americans are resigned to giving up their data – and that is why many appear to be engaged in tradeoffs.” Of the 1,506 US adults surveyed, 91% disagreed (71% strongly) that “if companies give me a discount, it is a fair exchange for them to collect information about me without my knowing.” (Perhaps it’s the knowing part that they were hung up on?) Further, 55% disagreed (38% strongly) that “it’s okay if a store where I shop uses information it has about me to create a picture of me that improves the services they provide for me.”

The results from the Zebra Technologies survey align closer with that sentiment than do the results from the Aimia survey. In looking at privacy concerns with regards to retailers, the Zebra study found that just 27% of respondents are comfortable sharing personal information while making a purchase online, and only 25% are comfortable sharing their data when making a purchase in-store. Comfort with websites’ tracking behavior and with sharing social media profile information with retailers turned out to be even lower (each at 20%).

Concerns with protection of the data may be behind those low levels of comfort. When respondents were asked their level of trust in various companies and institutions to protect their personal data and use it to provide something of value, just 38% of respondents indicated some level of trust with retailers. (By comparison, the highest level of trust – 62% – was for hospitals and healthcare companies.)

Nevertheless, 70% of respondents seem to feel that they would be encouraged to share personal information with retailers for some type of reward or perk. (Parse that!) That suggests that rewards may prompt data sharing even if trust isn’t necessarily there. While that appears to be in conflict with the Aimia report, the difference may be due to the verticals involved. In other words, consumers may want rewards when shopping, but be more driven by trust when dealing with other types of companies (the Aimia report was not limited to retailers).

Or, as the UPenn study argues, the whole exchange calculus may simply be a fallacy.

About the Data: The Zebra Technology survey was conducted from January 6-February 18 2015 by Research Now, in the following countries: United States (588), Canada (137), Singapore (105), Australia (114), UK (167), Italy (119), Spain (125), France (146), Germany (125), China (118), Japan (112), and Thailand (99).

Aimia’s Global Loyalty Lens surveyed 20,168 respondents in 11 international markets:
United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, United States, Australia, India, and the Middle East. In all markets, apart from the UAE, Brazil and India, the sample sizes are nationally representative. Because of the online nature of the survey, there is some bias towards younger, higher income groups in the UAE, Brazilian and Indian markets. Respondents were asked for their opinions, experiences, and feelings about loyalty and reward programs across three industry sectors (retail, travel and financial services) and 15 industry sub-sectors.

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