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Survey: Majority Of Consumers Believe Total Data Privacy No Longer Exists

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The vast majority (80 percent) of consumers age 20-40 in the U.S. and the U.K. believe total privacy in the digital world is a thing of the past, and nearly half (49 percent) said they would not object to having their buying behavior tracked if it would result in relevant offers from brands and suppliers, a new study by Accenture shows.

Privacy concerns aside, the survey of 2,012 consumers conducted in March and April indicates that they continue to embrace digital technology in pursuit of a good deal. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the respondents—64 percent—said that when they are physically in a store, they would welcome text messages from that retailer alerting them to offers matching their buying preferences.

However, it’s clear from the survey results that consumers continue to be cautious about the use of their personal information. According to the survey:

• The majority of respondents—87 percent—believe adequate safeguards are not in place to protect their personal information.

• 64 percent—compared to 85 percent from the 2012 survey—are concerned about websites tracking their buying behavior.

• More than half (56 percent) say they are trying to safeguard their privacy by inputting their credit card information each time they make an online purchase rather than having that data stored for future use.

• 70 percent of respondents believe businesses aren’t transparent about how their information is being used, and 68 percent say there is not enough transparency around what is being done with their information.

• A large number of respondents—40 percent—believe only 10 percent of their personal data is actually private.

• Although 42 percent believe vendors and suppliers are using their personal data in order to provide them with more relevant offers, 39 percent believe their data is being sold.

So how do businesses strike the right balance in providing consumers with what they want while taking their concerns about privacy into consideration?

“In today’s digital age where consumers are connected and empowered and data is abundant, businesses must align their organizations, technology and strategies to deliver relevant and loyalty-enabling experiences to their consumers,” said Glen Hartman, global managing director of Digital Transformation for Accenture Interactive. “As the business leader who typically owns the customer experience for most organizations, the chief marketing officer (CMO) should be in the driver’s seat to encourage a customer-centric digital transformation that generates experiences to meet consumer needs.”

The survey validates the fact that consumers are becoming increasingly demanding. Asked to rank the factors that would make them most likely to complete the purchase of a product or service, respondents’ top three choices were sales and competitive pricing (61 percent), superior products (36 percent) and superior customer experience—both online and in-store (35 percent). Customer loyalty programs and relevant promotions followed, at 31 percent and 26 percent, respectively, but engaging advertising campaigns and celebrity endorsements trailed far behind, at 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

“Price and quality are regularly recognized as purchase drivers, but seeing that relevant and useful customer experiences trumped advertising, loyalty programs, promotions and endorsements in influencing purchase behavior was a key survey finding,” Hartman said. “It should be a huge wake-up call for CMOs.

“Businesses should align their marketing strategies using advanced analytics to drive real-time recommendations with the needs and interests of today’s consumers who demand a seamless omni-channel experience whether they choose to shop online or in a store,” he added. “When pursuing that seamless customer experience, businesses must balance the need for security and data privacy with the desire to provide an exceptional customer experience. And it goes beyond marketing or shopping transactions. Businesses must embrace the full customer experience. The relationship with customers is defined by the experiences delivered across marketing, sales, service, online and offline, before, during and after campaigns and transactions—it should be a continuous engagement loop. Unless they can provide customers with the most satisfying experience possible, companies in all industries risk losing them to a competitor who can.”

Further, the survey confirms that consumers in the 20-40 age groups are ubiquitous users of digital technology across multiple mobile platforms. Respondents own between three and four digital devices per person, on average, and 27 percent own more than four devices. They also spend an average of six to six-and-a-half hours per day using a digital device for personal activities, including messaging/texting (48 percent), emailing (39 percent), getting news (27 percent) and shopping for a product or service online (20 percent).

According to the survey, businesses appear to be making a good effort to reach these customers: Nearly all respondents—90 percent—said they receive notifications of upcoming promotions or new services with varying frequency and half say these communications help guide future purchase decisions. However, there also is a clear pecking order among the types of communications that consumers prefer to receive from companies: Email was the top choice for 93 percent of respondents, followed by social media (57 percent) and text (44 percent). Only 25 percent of survey respondents said they are comfortable receiving phone calls.

“Developing a deeper understanding of the new rules of consumer engagement and building holistic engagement programs that not only match consumer preferences but help consumers accomplish goals in real-time—whether it’s contacting customer service, sharing an opinion with a friend, making a purchase online and picking up in-store, or opting in for mobile coupons. Delivering relevant experiences based on intent will be a critical success factor for businesses in the next several years. In fact, this capability will draw a line in the sand between booming and struggling companies,” said Hartman. “Importantly, since 51 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer for companies to stop tracking their shopping behavior, companies must find ways to establish more trust with customers and an effective formula for reaching them without crossing a data privacy line. For consumers there’s a direct correlation between privacy tolerance and value.”

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