Turns Out Consumers Really Do Care About the Data You're Collecting

Older Consumers, Especially, May Not Buy Because of Privacy Concerns

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Forrester just published survey results intended to answer the questions "Do people care if companies collect their data, and does it affect their decisions about the companies?"

The short answer to both questions is , yes.

In a survey of 37,000 US and Canadian online adults, we first asked how concerned people were with companies accessing their personal information. More than 70% were concerned about social security numbers and credit cards. Less than half cared about their phone number, and only 19% were concerned about their online reviews. This proves people are at least thoughtful, and distinguish between extremely sensitive information and other information.

Forrester Data Survey

Forrester Data Survey

The second big conclusion is that age matters, and young people are more open. For example, 47% of 55-64 year-olds were concerned about access to their behavioral data, compared to only 33% of those 18-24. Young people were also far more willing to give up information in exchange for discounts.

Finally, 44% of consumers say they have not completed an online transaction because of something they read in a privacy policy. Again, this is far more likely to happen to older consumers, and the percentage has increased since 2008.

Marketers -- especially direct marketers -- love data. But now, over 15 years into the Web, consumers are becoming far more aware of how data collection can go awry, and are voting with their pocketbooks. You can collect and use this data broadly and hope you don't run afoul of an angry consumer with a lot of Twitter followers ready to destroy your brand with your own behavior. You can exploit young people's willingness to part with data -- they have so much less to protect, after all. Or you can adjust your policies based on this rising level of awareness. It's up to you.

The report, by Forrester Customer Intelligence analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo, is available here. (Non-Forrester-clients will see an excerpt.)

Josh Bernoff is senior vice president, idea development at Forrester Research and the co-author of "Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business," a management book that teaches you how to transform your business by empowering employees to solve customer problems. He blogs at blogs.forrester.com/groundswell.
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