Despite a series of recent, high-profile data breaches and consumer concerns over data collection, shoppers are still open to sharing their personal information, according to a survey released today by Aimia. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

Just how much they're willing to share, and to whom, varies greatly by industry and nationality, according to the latest Aimia Loyalty Lens report, which this quarter surveyed over 24,000 people across 10 countries.

When asked to rank types of companies by the degree to which they are comfortable with those businesses handling their personal data, an overwhelming majority of UK consumers (86%) put banks in the top four (out of ten), along with supermarkets (65%), mobile phone providers (57%) and their places of work (50%).

These figures are broadly in line with the global average. However, UK consumers buck the trend when it comes to trusting online retailers, with 42% putting online retailers in the top four, compared to the global average of 35%.

Despite the perception that some industries are doing a better job at protecting data than others, more than half of shoppers internationally (55%) are willing to share personal information with companies in exchange for relevant rewards. That willingness is uneven across international markets. Brits are among the nationalities that are more skeptical (48%), along with Germans (39%). They can be contrasted with Indian respondents, of whom three-quarters (74%) are open to providing their personal details in return for rewards.

"Consumers are increasingly required to trust companies to handle their personal details," said David Johnston, Group Chief Operating Officer for Aimia. "Transparency about how data is being collected and used will become a key differentiator for businesses going forward. Those that are clear and offer a better customer experience by how they use that information will build greater trust and loyalty."

However, there is a fine line between knowing and understanding customers, and unnerving them. With the data that retailers now have, they can greet each customer by name. But knowing the particularities of the local market matter. In the UK, 45% say they're not comfortable when supermarket cashiers address them by name, while in the Middle East 46% see it as perfectly fine. Similar variances occur when it comes to the travel and leisure sector. Globally, 49% of consumers feel comfortable being called by their names by airlines. But while almost two-thirds of consumers in the Middle East (60%) and over half of Australians (56%) feel comfortable with name acknowledgment, only 38% of Brits are comfortable with the practice.

"With today's technological advances, companies have the ability to truly understand their consumer - from what we like to eat, to where we like to shop to even our names. But it's important for businesses to know when and where it's appropriate to use this information to engage consumers, and that it varies significantly by industry and nationality. The companies that win will be the ones that listen to their consumers' preferences and use data accordingly to build mutually-beneficial relationships," Johnston said.

Other UK highlights from the survey included:

  • UK consumers are big fans of supermarket loyalty programmes, with 74% being a member of a supermarket loyalty or reward scheme. This compares with just 57% globally.
  • The number one driver behind loyalty to supermarkets is being rewarded for that loyalty (28%) with price coming in second at 16%. In contrast, the top driver at banks is longevity of service, with rewards coming in third place. The supermarket figures can be contrasted with the global averages of 22% for loyalty and 17% for price.
  • Not all rewards are created equal. For airlines (51% of UK and 45% globally) customers prefer loyalty currency. Supermarkets diverge strongly: UK consumers prefer loyalty currency top with (43%) while globally consumers prefer cash back (36%). For banks (56%) getting cash back is king in the UK (contrasted with 50% globally).
  • New forms of information are increasingly being seen as sacred, or even more sacred than personal data that has traditionally been kept private. When it comes to the information UK consumers protect the most, web history and mobile phone number top the list with 40% and 31% respectively stating they would never share such information. That's compared with 29% who would never share their income level and 23% who would never reveal their online purchases. For global consumers, the figures are 39%, 29%, 30% and 23% respectively.