Recent research is offering some insight into different mindsets when it comes to handing out personal data to companies and marketers.

The research was conducted by Montreal-based marketing analytics company Aimia in partnership with New York’s prestigious Columbia Business School. Their joint work examines the marketing practice of collecting consumer information (email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, etc.) for use in later strategies and campaigns, and just how consumers felt about sharing that sensitive information.

According to the study, consumers are fairly discerning when it comes to different types of personal information. The report, titled “What is the Future of Data Sharing? Consumer Mindsets and the Power of Brands,” shows that not every consumer responds in the same way when a marketer attempts to collect their data.

“This particular study was developed to try to dive deeper into how consumers think about their personal data,” said Matthew Quint, director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School. “Studies had shown that people were generally concerned about data sharing and data collection by companies. But little research had been done on how people consider different types of data, or how their attitudes and behaviours differed depending on the industry category, or what does actually drive them to be more willing to share their data.”

The findings show that more than 80 per cent of consumers surveyed wanted more details about the personal data companies collect and a way to exercise more control over that information. But in spite of their caution, the study reveals that they’re still willing to share their information — for a price. If consumers are given relevant offers and services, or truly trust the brand, they’re less hesitant to give out their personal details.

Trust also plays a key role in the communication between consumers and brands. Three out of four (75 per cent) of respondents said they’d dole out more types of personal data to brands they really trusted. And based on the research, marketers still have some serious wiggle room to nurture a trusting relationship with their customers. The majority (57 per cent) of those surveyed were either completely willing to share their data or had low defenses about the topic, meaning it’s still very possible for marketers to collect their valuable data.

Aimia Canada’s president and CEO Vince Timpano had some advice for marketers looking to engage customers and build that sense of trust. “Marketers should focus on building brand trust and personalized, relevant offers as these two strategies appear to be most impactful, even to the most cautious consumer. Offers are great, but it is the relevancy of these offers that matter even more,” he said. “It’s also important to note that there are significant implications if marketers get this wrong. Our research shows that consumers won’t hesitate to cut ties with brands that send them irrelevant offers and information.”

Of all the types of personal information marketers attempt to collect, the respondents were most hesitant about handing out their address, with 58 per cent saying they were sensitive about giving out that data. And according to Quint, respondents were also loath to give out their website history and social network access. And while respondents recognized that their full name, phone number and date of birth were some of the most sensitive data they had to share, that’s some of the data they’re ready to give to companies.

Based on the findings, the compilers of the report divided the responding consumers into four different “mindset” groups based on their feelings toward data sharing.

  • Savvy and in Control: Described as high defense, but happy to share – 24 per cent
  • Happy Go Lucky: Characterized by low defenses, and happy to share information – 10 per cent
  • Resigned: Again, low defenses, but not willing to share – 23 per cent
  • Defenders: Those with high defenses who are not happy to share – 43 per cent

The researchers created these categories to help marketing professionals better understand the thinking and motivations of consumers and how they respond to this sensitive issue.

“While consumer attitudes toward data sharing may be shaped by factors such as age, gender, income, and education, demographics alone do not accurately predict whether a given consumer will allow or hinder data collection,” said Timpano. “To help marketers better understand how consumers perceive and act when sharing personal data, the researchers identified these four different sharing mindsets.”

The survey spanned five different countries (the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, India and France) and compiles the sentiments of more than 8,000 respondents across those regions.

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