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Tealium report: Consumers trust brands with their data, but with conditions

30-second summary:

  • Brands are held at a higher standard than the federal government – 40% of consumers say that, other than themselves, businesses are the most responsible parties for protecting their data — higher even than the federal government.
  • Consumers don’t believe they have control over their personal data – Though most consumers (59%) think businesses are doing a good job handling their data, 71% also say they don’t think it’s possible to have total control over their own online data.
  • It is the responsibility of the brand to educate consumers, manage and communicate data privacy practices and protect consumer data – Brands have a lot of room to become more transparent about their data policies. Just over one-third (38%) of consumers say they always read a brand’s online terms and conditions; the rest rely on brands to do the right thing.

Consumers expect businesses to be the most responsible parties for protecting their data – more so than even the U.S. government.

That’s one of the findings in a new report on the topic from customer data platform Tealium. Entitled “Trust is Golden: How Brands Can Prioritize Privacy in the Age of the Data” [free, registration required], the report surveyed 1000 U.S. consumers in an effort to better understand relationships between brands and data privacy.

The fine print

While 40 percent of respondents believe that businesses should be the ones most responsible for data privacy – next to themselves – 59 percent said that brands were doing a good job on that front. Nevertheless, 91 percent want their state or federal government to adopt stricter data-control regulations.

Slightly over a third, or 38 percent, said they always read a brand’s online terms and conditions. This is a much higher figure than the common wisdom that virtually no one reads the fine print.

But, whether or not consumers do their due diligence, even trusted brands don’t have much room for error. The report found that only 15 percent of respondents are likely to forgive data breaches or missteps from brands they trust.

97 percent very concerned

The report also highlights an unspoken but essential bargain between consumers and brands. Consumers don’t have the time or expertise to make sure brands are adequately protecting their data, so they assume the position of trusting most businesses to do the right thing.

But that doesn’t mean consumers don’t care. An overwhelming 97 percent are somewhat or very concerned about protecting their data, Tealium found, while half felt they weren’t well-informed about how businesses are using their data. Eighty percent assume personal info is being sold online.

This means the ball is in the brands’ court. While trust can easily be lost by one or two missteps, maintaining that trust requires a constant effort. But consumers are willing to play ball. Forty-three percent would provide detailed about themselves to a retailer, in exchange for a discount.

No longer a nice-to-have

Tealium’s advice: tell consumers the story about how their data is used to create “a relevant brand experience.” Case in point: Spotify makes clear it is using consumers’ music selections to improve music recommendations.

Of course, that works well with Spotify, where it’s all about selecting and finding music you like. This storytelling, however, becomes a little more tenuous when it involves a retailer describing how it is using your behavior to send you targeted ads.

Another bit of advice in the report: explain data policies in easy-to-understand English. Seventy-two percent of respondents said they would read the policies if they were shorter, and 61 percent would if they were straightforward.

At any rate, maintaining trust is no longer a nice-to-have with brands. The report cites an Accenture stat that 85 percent of consumers “won’t forgive a company’s missteps, even if they previously trusted the brand.”

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