Consumers want a personalised experience, not a creepy one

As consumers are sharing more data online than ever before, they have also become more wary about how this information is used.

Key results from Deloitte’s 2022 edition of the Australian Privacy Index show that 43 per cent of consumers are happy to share their personal information (even when aware of how their data will be used), while only two per cent of brands are disclosing potential data sharing, online tracking or other specific uses of data during the customer experience at sign-up, outside of the privacy policy.

“Consumers have gone about surviving the last two years defined by Covid, but they’ve shared more personal data than ever before with governments and businesses, in exchange for various freedoms and access to products and services,” says Deloitte national privacy and data protection lead partner, Daniella Kafouris.

“Working, learning, buying and even entertaining from home and online has significantly shifted the dial in positive and perhaps not-so-positive ways, from consumers benefiting from greater personalisation in their digital experiences to genuine concerns about how their data is used.”

Indeed, 74 per cent of consumers think companies they interact with online collect browsing information about their online activities and 83 per cent of brands appear to conduct online tracking and monitoring activities (as disclosed within their privacy policies).

Fifty-one per cent are uncomfortable with their online activity being tracked and 82 per cent are unhappy with their location data being shared with other companies.

“What is clear is that a disconnect remains between consumer expectations and how brands collect and use personal data. As a result, there needs to be a better balance between consumers finding personalisation helpful and what could be considered over-reaching.”

While 80 per cent of consumers see value in online personalisation, only 30 per cent are happy with their current personalisation experiences. Over 54 per cent of brands offer no tangible incentive to consumers in exchange for creating an account, beyond access to services.

“Many can see value in profiling and personalisation delivered by tracking and advertising technologies, but it’s also not for everyone. Generally, people under 35 see more value in tailored advertising and services compared to those over 35. As we looked through older age brackets, we found that increasingly more consumers perceive personalised experiences as crossing what we call a ‘creepy line’ that hinders the customer experience and, by extension, a brand’s ability to build trust and engage with them,” Kafouris adds.

“Brands certainly need to take their customers on a transparency journey throughout the customer experience, rather than relying on legal documents like their privacy policy, to build trust before things get ‘creepy’ and, ultimately, counter-productive and even damaging.”

Five key actions brands can take to improve their performance:

1. Increase transparency—provide transparent disclosures about the way personal information is used throughout the customer journey, beyond the privacy policy and collection statements, to improve consumer trust.

2. Be consistent—use consistent language to describe online tracking and monitoring activities and clearly define this across industries to avoid consumer confusion. Consumers want a personalised experience, not a creepy one.

3. Set privacy as the default—consumers have shown that they are unlikely to actively make changes to their settings yet are unhappy with their location information being used and shared. Default settings involving the collection and use of location information should protect the privacy of the individual.

4. Empower consumers—optimise preference centres to enable consumers to provide their preferences for personalisation directly, establishing a connection between the personalisation they receive and the personal information they have shared to reduce the creepy factor.

5. Communicate privacy protections—the security of their personal information is the leading factor for consumers when considering sharing that information with a brand.