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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Data Privacy and Security Still Big Consumer Concern One Year After Facebook Scandal

Consumers still care about what data you collect and how you use it. They've taken action and will avoid your brand over privacy concerns.

Looking to protect your brand? You may want to re-examine your data privacy policies.

For Further Reading:

Opt-In Versus Opt-Out: The Big Question for Consumer Privacy

Privacy Laws Will Soon Be Inescapable

Surveys Reveal User Attitudes about Online Data Privacy and Accuracy

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal still isn't behind us. In fact, consumer concerns about data security and privacy have grown stronger. That's just one of the results from a new survey released this month from SlickText, a marketing service specializing in text messages.

"A year after Facebook's sharing of user data with Cambridge Analytica become publicly known, 76.3 [percent] of consumers surveyed indicated they're now moderately or significantly concerned about their data when interacting with brands. This could spell trouble for marketers looking to target consumers online. How will they do it if most customers are afraid to share their information?" the company writes in its announcement, available here.

The survey of a "nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers," conducted on January 31 and February 1, revealed:

  • Over 86 percent of respondents are aware that social media platforms and apps, such as Facebook, sometimes share their personal information with third parties

  • Attitudes about online privacy are getting stronger; more than three-quarters (76.3 percent) say privacy has become a significant or moderate concern for them when interacting with a brand online; the concern has diminished for only 3 percent of respondents

  • Online privacy scandals from the last year have made 85.8 percent of respondents more aware of brands trying to target them

  • Enterprises need to be careful when targeting users based on information users have provided elsewhere online: 28.8 percent are extremely uncomfortable when they discover such information is used, 48 percent are very or somewhat uncomfortable.

  • The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal certainly didn't help matters: 26.7 percent were extremely concerned about how information is used online, 47.2 percent were very or somewhat concerned.

Users are taking concrete action as a result of this concern. For example, 51.9 percent changed passwords in order to increase their privacy, 51.5 percent said they had unsubscribed from branded email newsletters, and 35.9 percent had unsubscribed from branded text messages. That's not good news for brand managers.

Matt Baglia, SlickText's CEO, commissioned this study and told Upside, "This survey really highlights why it's so important to segment your audience before sending them marketing messages. What could seem spammy to one segment might be totally welcomed by another. If you start collecting data on preferences, tastes, and why your subscribers have signed up to your list in the first place then you can use that data create different groups within your list that you target your marketing to. This strategy isn't new, but it's become more important than ever as we strive to provide valuable, targeted marketing that consumers want to interact with."

The survey uncovered more bad news for brand managers: privacy concerns will inhibit consumers from choosing a company. A third of respondents (30.3 percent) said they are extremely unlikely to choose a company if they are concerned about the company's practices; 63.8 percent are very or somewhat unlikely to choose such a company.

SlickText offers companies concrete suggestions for interacting with consumers as a result of their survey. For example, they advise companies to be up front about privacy policies. "Not having an obvious privacy policy or anti-spam policy is a major red flag for consumers. Feel free to go out of your way to make it clear you care about their privacy. For example, if you're sending automated text messages, send a link in your first auto-response to your privacy information so consumers can read it if they want. Sometimes just knowing it's there and you care about it makes the difference."

Companies can make their marketing messages personal as long as they aren't "creepy." In its announcement, the company noted, "There's a difference between contacting customers by name and knowing the exact item they were planning to order on Amazon but haven't whispered out loud yet. Personalizing your mass messaging can be helpful but going overboard makes customers uncomfortable. They don't want to feel like they're being watched."

SlickText's Baglia added, "The survey showed people really don't want businesses to call them, which confirmed what I've already experienced but had few numbers to support. Millennials especially don't like chatting on the phone and definitely not with brands. It's uncomfortable and many see it as a waste of time. There are still a lot of businesses that make calls, although that's changing. Personally, I'm glad to see that many companies who used to make 'confirm your appointment' phone calls are switching that over to text, but I'd like to see that happen more often.

"I think consumers are very concerned with privacy right now because they don't feel they've been treated respectfully by brands in the past. I do think it's possible to win back their trust, and that starts by shifting marketing strategies to put consumer privacy and consent first."

About the Author

James E. Powell is the editorial director of TDWI, including research reports, the Business Intelligence Journal, and Upside newsletter. You can contact him via email here.

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