Digital Shoppers Value Data Privacy

Many wouldn't share personal info even if you paid them

Common marketing wisdom dictates that consumers are more willing to share personal information if they get something in return. Lately, that something means personalized experiences, services or offers. But how true is this perceived value exchange, especially for digital shoppers?

According to a new study by the Advertising Research Foundataion (ARF), this tit for tat didn't quite play out when it surveyed US internet users in June 2018.  The details respondents were most willing to share were gender (95%), race or ethnicity (91%), marital status (90%) and employment status (85%). Not surprisingly, consumers were least willing to share social security numbers (91%). Financial (78%) and medical information (71%) were also viewed as private.

The notion of using personal data to customize a digital experience didn't sweeten the deal. In fact, nearly all of the responses were lower. Only the most sensitive information like social security number (9% vs. 11%) and financial information (22% vs. 23%) were higher.

Shoppers are OK with personalization on the surface, but not if it gets too personal. A January 2018 survey of internet users in the US and Western Europe by RSA and YouGov found that 78% said they try to limit the amount of personal data they share online and with companies. Only 26% said they would be willing to share personal data in exchange for an improved customer experience. 

An interesting finding in the ARF study was that money wasn't much of an incentive. Data that consumers weren't willing to share couldn't be bought at any cost, and the data they were willing to share came cheap. A majority said $1 to $10 would be adequate, and one-third said they didn't need to be compensated at all.

This finding is similar to a May 2018 Syzygy survey, in which around half of US internet users said they wouldn't sell their data for any price. The going rate among those who would sell their data was $150. That was much higher than the ARF study, but the Syzygy survey came with qualifiers like being their "favorite brand" and was restricted to data that companies like Facebook and Google already have and wouldn't be shared. 

Maybe the most telling example of data privacy's importance was illustrated in an October 2017 survey by eMiles. When US internet users were asked about the factors that influenced where they shop digitally, free shipping was the obvious first choice, cited by 63% of respondents. But a retailer's security and privacy policies came in a close second, at 60%.