Personalization offer doesn’t lead to more personal data sharing [Survey]

Data sharing is highly situational; marketers can't assume personalization is always desirable.

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It’s widely accepted by marketers that consumers want increasingly personalized digital experiences. And while there’s considerable survey data that appears to support that general proposition, the truth is more situational and nuanced.

Resisting personalization. A new survey of 1,100 U.S. adults in March, conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) appears to fly in the face of the conventional wisdom about personalization. It found that “telling people that sharing their data will allow for a more personalized experience does not result in a greater willingness to share data.”

Overall, the survey found that consumers were using their PCs less and mobile apps more for daily and routine tasks, such as email, social media, music, content discovery and ecommerce.

But the findings about personalization are the most interesting and significant. In most instances, people seemed less willing to share information in exchange “for a personalized experience.”

Personalization offer didn’t impact openness to data sharing

Screen Shot 2019 08 14 At 9.18.56 AM
Source: ARF (2019)

Compared with 2018, people demonstrated somewhat more resistance to sharing personal data. According to ARF, “The biggest changes in respondents’ willingness to share their data from 2018 to 2019 were seen in their home address (-10 percentage points), spouse’s first and last name (-8 percentage points), personal email address (-7 percentage points), and first and last names (-6 percentage points).”

Better understanding of terms, declining trust. As evidence that audiences are becoming more sophisticated, the survey found somewhat greater understanding of terms that might appear in a hypothetical privacy policy. Overall, respondents found marketing terms such as “first party data” or “third party data” less confusing than in 2018. This slightly improved comprehension of terminology was true across groups, with Hispanics demonstrating the “clearest understanding.”

The survey also explored consumer trust in various media and institutions. Consistent with other surveys, ARF found declining levels of trust generally, though not radically so.

Americans’ trust in media and institutions

Screen Shot 2019 08 14 At 9.55.28 AM
Source: ARF (2019)

Putting aside Congress, social media and advertising are the least trusted among the various choices presented. For regular social media users, there is only a 1 point decline from 2018. However, occasional social media users’ trust was down 3 points, which is the same for general advertising.

The survey found the highest trust in “people like me.” Where might people encounter others like themselves online — social media or reviews.

Why should we care. Any single survey shouldn’t change our worldview. And this one asked relatively general questions about trust and personalization. Highly specific personal data scenarios could and likely would yield different answers.

It’s fairly clear that a kind of privacy-personalization paradox exists. So generalizations must always be qualified. People are increasingly sensitive to privacy issues but will share information when there are clear, defined benefits. Consumers also want retailers, platforms and brands to ask permission for use of their data. And, for some people, “personalization” may now be a dirty word, implying “tracking” or “surveillance.”

With the impeding implementation of CCPA and other data privacy bills making their way through state legislatures, we’re rapidly moving toward an opt-in data framework where marketers will need to ask permission to use personal data — and convincingly sell consumers on the benefits.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Greg Sterling
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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