Consumers increasingly want to choose which data they have to share with brands, and they want even greater choices about which devices they can use to browse websites, how they receive offers, and how they get information from the brands they're interested in, according to Ruth Gordon, director of digital marketing for Teradata, and Katharine Hulls, VP marketing for Celebrus Technologies, who here examine the results of a study into attitudes toward personalisation and data privacy among consumers in the UK and Germany. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

In order to succeed in today's highly competitive online world, brands need to make sure that they are managing each individual consumer's expectations appropriately. Get it right and a brand will have a customer for life but get it wrong and the results could be very costly.

The independent market research shows that where brands can build trust, consumers are more willing to share personal information provided they know they will receive a good experience that gives them value; but building this trust is not easy. Overall, consumers do not demonstrate high levels of trust when it comes to expecting brands to treat personal information with confidentiality. Two thirds to three quarters lack a high degree of trust for most brands.

Over half (54%) of UK consumers do not like being contacted by brands with which they have not registered, while 19% of German consumers also report that whenever they have shared personal information in the past they have been deluged with spam. Interestingly however, when asked why they are comfortable sharing data with brands, nearly half, 45%, of respondents stated that they trust brands to store their data securely. This indicates that reinforcing security and privacy policies around data storage is a good message for brands to communicate clearly to their customers.

To share or not to share?
Consumers are becoming more familiar with requests from companies for information; but there are clear trends emerging regarding the type of personal information they are willing to share.

While most (55%) consumers will happily provide an email address, reluctance about sharing begins to appear as soon as brands start asking for information such as postal addresses, with only 34% happy to share this information, and only 15% happy to give a phone number. This reinforces consumer desire to control their engagement with brands.

Consumers also prefer to use social media such as Facebook to connect with the brands they want, rather than being contacted directly by marketers; again retaining control over the relationship. This is not, as some would assume, an age-related concern: while 77% of all respondents would not share social media information, this rises to 79% of those under 25.

Furthermore, consumers are very unwilling to share geolocation information with brands - 82% do not want to share this information. Given the increasing experimentation with beacon technology it will be interesting to see if this consumer concern arrests geolocation marketing growth, or whether the benefits experienced will outweigh the current scepticism.

Although generally UK consumers are happier to share personal information than Germans, there is a complex mix of attitudes toward data across both countries and age groups. However, irrespective of age or nationality, one thing is clear - consumers want to retain control over their own data. In order to give them that control, brands must make it clear and easy for consumers to decide which data they want to share and continually evolve and review their strategy.

Channel control
The need for control also extends beyond what personal information is provided to how the individual is contacted and on which device. For example, around two thirds of consumers would prefer to receive promotional information about products and services via email; while one-third would like to get it through company websites. Other modes of communication cited were SMS (5%), social media (4%) and mobile push notifications (2%).

Although we consider consumers to be confident shopping and browsing online, many still have data privacy concerns and will respond quickly and negatively to a bad experience - from unsubscribing to moving to a competitor. Using the very tools brands are leveraging to drive personalisation, disgruntled consumers will openly share poor experiences, therefore personalisation needs to be accurate and relevant. Bad personalisation, or any indication that a brand does not respect a consumer's data in some way, will damage both business and the customer relationship.

Brands that get the personalised experience right and respect each individual consumer's channel, messaging and data preferences, can build trust and embark upon a positive value exchange. Supporting this with positive messages about how they handle, store and control their customer data will also have a positive impact on building trust, and create a solid, loyal customer base that will continue to purchase time and time again.

The full research results have been made available for free download from the Celebrus web site as part of the an eBook entitled 'Balancing the Personalisation and Privacy Equation' - click here (free registration required).