Persuasion in the GDPR era: Six tips on changing attitudes to data-sharing

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As we move forward into the GDPR era, changing and more nuanced consumer attitudes will be a potent force that the marketers will have to take into account, if they are to survive and thrive. 

Data privacy regulations are always liable to induce a certain amount of anxiety in the marketing industry.

Yet the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May is the most significant piece of legislation affecting the personally identifiable data of EU and UK citizens in a lifetime.

Judging from much of the commentary, its multiple provisions are often seen as a burden and a set of potentially severe penalties for failing to achieve compliance. In reality, however, GDPR should be seen as an opportunity to create new levels of consumer trust and a chance to embed privacy as a core brand value.

The evidence for this is in research examining attitudes to data privacy which was conducted on behalf of the DMA among more than 1,000 UK respondents at the end of 2017. After a thorough examination of the results, it is possible to see how marketers can turn the new regulation into an opportunity. Here is a set of six tips drawing on the lessons from the research:

1. Building trust should be paramount

In the world after the introduction of GDPR, it will be essential to establish trust so that consumers feel more comfortable with sharing their personal information. Trust has emerged as by the far most important factor for consumers. From a list of a dozen factors that make them happy to hand over data, trusting the organisation was selected by 58% of respondents.

If marketers learn only one lesson from the research it is about the importance of building trust with consumers. This emerged as even more significant than the chance to receive discounted prices or free services and products in exchange for personal data.

2. Be open and transparent about how data is handled

The overwhelming majority of UK citizens believe transparency is vital in the building of this trust. In fact, 88% in the research said transparency is important or very important, while 85% want the link between the data they share and the benefits they will receive in return to be explicit.

Other results show similarly high levels of demand for clear terms and conditions, and for flexible policies that give consumers the ability to control the type and amount of data they share. The point here is that organisations must be open about what they are doing with data.

3. Consumers want control

Control is certainly a concept that is central to how UK citizens view the sharing of data. More than eight-out-of-ten (86%) told researchers they want more control over the personal information they hand over to companies.

Younger consumers are more likely to be pragmatic or even unconcerned about providing organisations with their data, a trend that has been in force for several years.

Among the 18-24-year-olds, however, this demand is softening, since only 71% were seeking more control. A change in attitudes between the generations may be taking place, but anyone involved in marketing must address the issue of control and how they reassure consumers about it. The proportion of consumers feeling they lack control over the amount of data they share has actually increased from 2015, when the DMA conducted its last survey on these topics. Then the figure was 41%, compared with 55% today.

4. Recognise the differences between generations

A generational shift is occurring among consumers, which all marketing initiatives must take into account. Younger consumers are more likely to be pragmatic or even unconcerned about providing organisations with their data, a trend that has been in force for several years.

The over-65s continue to show less confidence in sharing personal information than 18-24s and their high level of concern over data-sharing has remained stable since the first such DMA survey in 2012.

Yet the proportion of Millennials (18-34s) who are now untroubled by concerns about how their data is used by companies has increased from 27% in 2015 to 38%. The growth of the “unconcerned” is driven in all probability by increasing awareness of what we as individuals can gain from sharing personal information in advanced economies.

What it suggests for the marketing industry is that a more nuanced and tailored approach to engaging different generational groups within the UK data economy will be increasingly important.

5. Take a hard look at incentives and personalisation

UK consumers are certainly more aware that they can get something in return for their data. The whole concept has taken off, especially in relation to increased personalisation, provision of more relevant recommendations and access to exclusive events or offers.

We are witnessing the rise of the “consumer capitalist” and it is a phenomenon that presents the marketing industry with a real opportunity to engage in a more direct and meaningful way.

Take, for example, the proportion of respondents who say they would be more likely to exchange data in return for personalised products or services. This has risen from 26% in 2015 to 34% in 2017. Similarly, those ready to hand over data so they can receive personalised brand recommendations has gone up from a fifth (20%) to 31% in the same period.

We are witnessing the rise of the “consumer capitalist” and it is a phenomenon that presents the marketing industry with a real opportunity to engage in a more direct and meaningful way. More than half (56%) of citizens said they now regard their data as a tradeable asset which they can use to negotiate better prices and offers (up from 40% in 2012).

6. The rise of ad-blocking puts a premium on the right quality of communication

Almost a third of consumers have now used ad-blocking technology to banish adverts from their mobile or computer screens (32%) and another 41% are interested in doing so. Together these results represent a threat to the current model under which data is exchanged, allowing consumers who are unhappy to take direct action. It is a challenge that needs to be addressed, primarily by effective communication of what it is consumers stand to gain.

Marketing communications must be both engaging and convincing and offer a readily comprehensible value proposition, or the proportion of consumers opting out or disrupting the model will continue to increase.

As we move forward into the GDPR era, it is obvious that changing and more nuanced consumer attitudes will be a potent force that the marketing industry will have to take into account. When so many in business are focusing on compliance and the avoidance of swingeing fines under the new regulation, it would be easy to miss the shifting attitudinal currents revealed in the research. They make plain that revised approaches are necessary for effective engagement with the consumer.

About Rachel Aldighieri

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