Consumers Fear Data Insecurity

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Consumers are under no illusions about their privacy. Eighty-seven percent of them don't feel companies have proper safeguards in place to adequately protect their data. Another 80 percent think total privacy is a thing of the past, according to an Accenture Interactive study of U.S. and U.K. consumers between ages 20 and 40.

These consumers are backing up their fears with action. Fifty-six percent input their credit card information each time they purchase something online in an attempt to safeguard their data. For Web sites trying to streamline mobile purchasing or speed up the checkout process, those statistics are a concern.

Glen Hartman, Accenture Interactive's global managing director of digital transformation, sees a way out: trust. "If they've gotten burned, if their data [was] sold, that trust factor becomes a major driver of behavior," he says.

People might, for example, store their data only with select vendors they trust, and in turn give them a larger share of wallet.

One path to trust is transparency. Consumers might initially react negatively to technology they believe invades their privacy, but resistance often diminishes over time. In the study, 64 percent of people were concerned about Web sites tracking their buying behavior. Just two years ago, 85 percent said they were concerned.

Hartman has already seen the same pattern emerging around iBeacon. "As more people knew about it and the things it could do, their knowledge made it less scary."

Companies, therefore, should actively try to share information with consumers, so they can understand what type of data is needed to foster good experiences, Hartman advises.

While consumers are asking for clear communication about how their data is being used, companies aren't delivering. Seventy percent of consumers think businesses aren't being transparent about how they're using their data, and 39 percent believe their data is being sold to others. Clarifying those policies and communicating them to customers will help companies earn trust from data-shy consumers.

Relevancy is also a way for companies to connect with consumers concerned about giving up their data. Sixty-four percent of consumers would be okay with text messages from retailers while they're shopping in stores, and 49 percent would allow their buying behavior to be tracked, provided they receive relevant offers in return. Hartman brings up examples such as Allstate, which has a program that tracks policyholders' driving in exchange for discounts. Those who see the value in giving up their information in return for a discount have the opportunity to opt in.

These types of offers "give control back to the consumer to drive those experiences," Hartman says.

Additionally, because feelings about data privacy affect the customer experience, conversations about privacy need to be taken out of silos and coordinated across an organization. Companies should have consistent privacy policies across channels, advises Hartman. Privacy, he adds, is a CMO-level concern.

"The purview of marketers needs to change. It can't just be about advertising; it's the in-store experience, loyalty, and service coming together, and understanding the new ways brands are interacting with people. When you create continuous relationships and engagement, you establish that trust."

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