Consumers reluctant to share personal data

Consumers reluctant to share personal data online
Consumers reluctant to share personal data online

A new survey from Pitney Bowes reveals UK users are reluctant to share information with businesses online.

More and more businesses are collecting data from users online in order to tailor a more friendly, useful and personal experience, but research shows consumers are wary about what information they give and who they are happy to give their information to.

Pitney Bowes asked consumers what information was acceptable for a business to request, and what sort of organisations were they happy to supply personal data to, and from the results they have produced an online table of trust.

Table of Trust for organisations
Doctor/health service ​42%​
Bank ​36%
Local Government ​31%​
Central Government​ 30%
Online shopping​ 27%​
Utility​ 22%
Retail Loyalty program​ 19%​
Fitness club​ 16%
Percentage of UK respondents willing to trust a type of organisation with their personal data

Table of Trust for personal information
Date of birth​ 10%​
Postal address​ 13%
Email​ 14%​
Bank details 22%
Home phone number 23%​
Weight​ 24%
Income​ 36%​
Mobile phone number​ 38%
Credit card number​ 40%​
Sexual preference​​ 45%
Ethnicity​ 54%​
Religion​​ 71%
Political persuasion​ 76%
Percentage of UK respondents willing to share the following type of information with businesses and authorities

Around a third of the population, 31%, say they are unwilling to share personal data, such as age and address, with any third party at all and only four in ten (42%) say they trust their doctor/health service with their private information, with retailers a good way down the table in fifth with just 22% trusting them.

"Customers are likely to be wary of agreeing to information requests that they don't understand" Phil Hutchison, Marketing Director, Pitney Bowes

Pitney Bowes' marketing director Phil Hutchison, warned that this may be in response to businesses deluging customers with data requests and adopting an over-familiar tone in communications; "Statistics show that even the most basic form of personalisation substantially increases response rates, it's not surprising that marketers are hungry for more and more personal data. There is an opportunity, but only for those companies which get communication right."

A clear line between personal and private data

The survey shows there is a clear line between what is seen as personal data and what is 'private information'. It is the minority of respondents who are unwilling to give basic transactional data details, such as date of birth (10%), postal address (13%) or email (14%). However, the trust line is crossed when these consumers are asked about private issues such as their sexual preference, (45%) religion (71%) or political persuasion (76%).

Hutchinson concluded, "Customers are likely to be wary of agreeing to information requests that they don't understand. If a retail loyalty scheme starts asking you for your height and weight, or a bank asks about your family structure you can only wonder why."

Pitney Bowes recommends the following six steps:
1. Ensure compliance with current data legislation, one slip can undermine or seriously damage your reputation
2. Get the basics right (name, address etc) before trying to develop the relationship further
3. Be clear about your intention. Say whey you'd like to know more and explain the benefit to your customer
4. Understand the limits of your brand. Do customers come to you because you do a simple service well? If so, don't attempt to create a bigger 'customer experience'' where it isn't necessary or valued
5. Don't let data defeat you. Technology and support exists at every business level
6. Close the loop on communications. Use what comes back from customers to fuel further conversations and provide payback to customers who've given you their data.