As consumers return to more normal but more skeptical behaviors, new research from global comms giant WE Communications uncovers their increasing expectations on issues related to privacy and fair use of personal data in the post-pandemic era. The firm’s newly released Brands in Motion global report, The Privacy Mandate: New Normal, New Rules, seeks to understand consumers’ stance on what an organization is using their data for and how that data has been gathered.
According to the new report and survey of consumers in the US, UK, Australia, China, India and Singapore, in partnership with YouGov, 97 percent of global study respondents say data privacy is an important issue, with more than eight out of ten saying they would stop or reconsider doing business with brands that do not proactively share their approach to collecting data.
“Keeping user information confidential and secure has become table stakes for brands,” said WE’s APAC regional technology lead Sara Pereira, in a news release. “Today’s increasingly tech-savvy and sophisticated consumers want to know: ‘What’s in it for me?’. They want to see their data used in ways that add to their user experience.”
The study finds that pandemic measures, such as contact tracing apps, have left users better informed on privacy trade-offs. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed believe that brands use their data to create personalized content and refine their marketing strategy to better suit customers’ needs. With data needs changing so rapidly, brands must rethink what privacy means to customers and how to communicate it.
“Four years after the introduction of GDPR legislation, our report shows UK brands still have work to do in convincing consumers they are handling their data appropriately,” said Laura Gillen, Head of Technology, UK, at WE, in the release. “Seventy-two percent of UK consumers are concerned with how brands collect and collate their data—only social media companies are viewed with more suspicion. This is despite 85 percent of consumers claiming they understand that brands who collate their data will sell it to other parties. These findings suggest that brands must be more transparent in how their data is utilized to build deeper, timely and more personalized experiences. As experts in brands, comms professionals have a critical role in driving this mindset shift.”
The study uncovers three main themes:
Make privacy communications part of the user experience
Global consumers want brands to share their approach to collecting and protecting their data proactively, and not wait until there’s a privacy breach to communicate about their security efforts. They expect companies to build trust with the media for their stance on privacy and confidentiality. Brands that fail to do so risk having most of their customers reconsider doing business with them—or stop entirely.
“Data privacy and security have become important trust and reputation issues. Brands that only look to communications as a post-crisis response are missing out on an engagement opportunity,” said Pereira. “Communications can and must be part of the customer’s data privacy experience and play prominently in the customer journey—not just when disaster strikes.”
Transparency and trust are critical
The report found that consumers want to know where, when, and how they give access to their data. Sixty-five percent of global consumers say it is important to know how brands handle their personal information. The vast majority are at least somewhat concerned about how their data is collected and used. In other words, they demand full disclosure and transparency from brands.
Consumers also trust some institutions more than others, with 82 percent of respondents stating that they are concerned with how social media sites collect and use their data vs. 62 percent for government agencies.
“Chinese consumers are becoming more sensitive to how brands use their data. Several firms have recently come under fire for tracking software to display higher prices to existing customers while giving new customers lower rates,” said Martin Xu, Director—Technology Practice at WE Red Bridge in China, in the release. “With cases like this gaining increasing attention in China, we expect to see brands taking a more proactive approach to communications about data transparency and privacy as more consumers wake up to the negative potential of data misuse.”
“Sophisticated audiences expect sophisticated stories,” said Pereira. “It’s time for brands to move beyond check-the-box disclosures and notifications.”
Consumers have higher expectations of brands
Brands should also communicate how the collected data is changing consumers’ lives for the better. Eighty-seven percent of respondents surveyed will reconsider or stop doing business with a brand if it asks for information perceived as not relevant to the product or service provided.
In addition, UK and US respondents have higher expectations of businesses vs. governments, and look to brands to lead on finding solutions to societal issues. This “brand-first” mentality carries through to who is responsible for addressing data breaches as well, with 78 percent of UK respondents and 64 percent of US respondents believing that the onus is on the brand.
“To thrive in this new normal, brands must exhibit bold leadership, foster deep trust and have the courage to use data to do more than simply market themselves more effectively.” said Pereira.
Three ways communicators can own the data privacy conversation:
The WE Brands in Motion report is a worldwide study of how perceptions shift over time, conducted by WE and YouGov. Now in its fifth year, Brands in Motion has surveyed 95,000+ consumers and B2B decision-makers about their attitudes regarding:
- Expectations for brand actions and investments
- Forces affecting the market on a macro level
- Expectations for purpose initiatives