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Brands and personal data: why different countries need different approaches

European millennials more sensitive to brands tracking personal data than US counterparts
How sensitive are you to brands using your personal data?
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Customer experience specialist SDL has been examining the behaviour and sentiment of the millennial generation across the world to see how digital marketing affects us in different ways.

The company's study threw up some intriguing findings, with some populations seemingly far more sensitive to brands' use of personal data than others.

To find out more, and see how this affects the marketing strategy of everyday businesses, we spoke to SDL CMO Paige O'Neill about the report.

TechRadar Pro: Can you tell us how this research came about?

Paige O'Neill: We've commissioned a year-long survey into the behaviour of the millennial generation globally, looking at how their attitudes are forcing brands to adapt their digital marketing approaches.

The second part of our survey came out recently and focuses on millennial consumers' attitudes to how their personal data is being used.

TRP: Who did you survey?

PN: We surveyed 1,860 millennials (aged 18 – 36) that were college educated and employed full-time. We did this across six key countries – the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Australia between January and April 2014 to give the research a global perspective.

TRP: What were the key findings?

PN: This study highlighted that there's a much higher sensitivity among European millennials about sharing personal data with brands in comparison to their US counterparts.

We found that over half (52 percent) of respondents in the US don't have any problem with brands using their information if it means they'd get a better customer experience in return.

This contrasted with the UK where 37 percent of millennials will share personal information, and then 28 percent in Germany, 23 percent in Norway and only 13 percent in the Netherlands.

TRP: Were regional differences like this common in the findings?

PN: When we were looking purely at highly personal identity data that is acceptable for brands to track, we spotted a sharp difference between US and European millennials' attitudes.

When we compare the net score for this, for US millennials there are a high number who say it is acceptable to track face scan (78), profile information (93), location (93) and email address (104).

However for millennials in the UK, this is a different ball game. They don't find data sharing nearly as acceptable as you can see from the following figures: face scan (54), profile information (55), location (58) and email address (68).

TRP: Did anything surprise you?

PN: What stood out for us is that, although European millennials are more sensitive about how much data they do divulge to brands, they are open to connecting with brands on social media.

In fact, Europeans are almost on a par with the US when it comes to connecting with brands socially, especially if it means that they can get their hands on rewards like free perks and discounts.

For the US, we found 62 percent will connect to get discounts, in the UK this was 51 percent and then 50 percent in Germany, and 42 percent in the Netherlands.

TRP: How will these findings impact on companies' marketing strategy?

PN: The relevancy of marketing content is key for the millennial generation. From our study, we found that 46 percent of millennials in the US and 35 percent of UK respondents are willing to provide more data to brands if it means they wouldn't have to waste their time with offers that aren't relevant.

We've noticed that there can be a tendency to see all millennials as the same, which is a mistake, as our study revealed both strong differences and similarities between millennials of different nationalities.

Therefore, brands need to ensure that they really know what their customer wants in order to create the kind of marketing campaign that will resonate with their audience.

For success, marketers need to spend time focusing on what matters to the consumers in the region they are selling in, and align their strategies. They need robust and agile technology that will support this and enable them to deliver effective and targeted marketing campaigns.

Furthermore, for brands wanting to market to the millennials, they need to ensure that they are funnelling a significant amount of marketing resources on their social media strategy, given this is how millennials want to engage.

TRP: How does this study tie into the key marketing technology trends that we're seeing at the moment?

PN: A big trend that we're seeing at the moment is the need for a more personalised marketing approach. This has certainly been highlighted in our study when it comes to relevancy of content.

Many brands struggle with really knowing their customers and, as a result, aren't giving them what they need. For example, for brands who want to market to consumers globally, language personalisation needs to be a priority.

Consumers prefer to communicate with brands in their native language. Take the retail industry as an example, 55 percent of all consumers prefer only to buy from websites in their native language (Source: Common Sense Advisory, 2014). Offering this kind of personalised service is a great way of building up a loyal customer base.

TRP: What is the next step in this study?

PN: The next stage of our study will be focusing more closely on content and how marketers can ensure they're delivering the right kind of content for their audience. We know millennials are demanding and marketing needs to be aligned to their interests – it needs to be targeted and useful. Watch this space!

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.