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How Consumers, Data and Retailers Fare in a New Climate of Information Privacy

A few months out from the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, both consumers and retailers are navigating a new climate of increasing scrutiny and data privacy rights.

The difference between what consumers do and how they truly feel about data privacy is stark—and it reveals just how entrenched certain consumption behaviors have become.

For example, a majority (84 percent) of consumers agree that technology is critical to injecting new levels of convenience into shopping, and while 48 percent of consumers in Ketchum’s Social Permission and Technology Study said nearly all of their purchases take place online, virtually no one (8 percent) actually trusts retail businesses to handle their personal data responsibly. And they can hardly be blamed, considering what’s already happened this year in terms of data breaches and other compromises.

Despite this distrust, roughly half (54 percent) of the more than 1,000 surveyed consumers admitted to skipping the head-spinning fine print that details a business’ privacy terms—almost or every single time. That’s despite the discomfort most (78 percent) expressed over the idea of Big Business making a profit by selling their personal data to third parties.

“The old rules of building a brand have changed,” Melissa Kinch, partner and managing director of technology at Ketchum, said in a statement revealing the study findings.

A new report from Oracle echoes these sentiments. Describing consumer “fatigue” when it comes to offering personal information to retailers, Oracle’s The New Topography of Retail study, which surveyed 15,500 global consumers, said retailers sensitive to the enhanced awareness over data privacy are working on ways to offer an “anonymous shopping experience.” Such a move would likely be welcomed by the 86 percent of global consumers and 87 percent of those in North America who would request brands delete their data if legislation similar to GDPR was enforced in their area.

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“Anonymous personalization is the next step in capturing shoppers at the point of intent,” the report said.

Retailers must respond to consumer behaviors in the moment. Nearly half (47 percent) of the 65 percent of global consumers who browse retail websites multiple times weekly said they’d appreciate real-time offers that reflect the products they’ve been looking at.

“As consumers question the benefit of sharing their information, research shows they want to receive offers that are both relevant and personalized while maintaining a level of anonymity,” Mike Webster, Oracle Retail’s senior vice president and general manager, said in a statement announcing the study.

“Retailers have the opportunity to deliver personalized incentives, converting an emotional response towards privacy into a meaningful interaction,” Webster said. “As retailers address data privacy issues head-on, brands who reinvent their approach to consumer engagement, look towards attracting the right customers and recognize that capturing shoppers at the point of intent will drive increased engagement and retention.”

Thanks to emerging regulations like GDPR, a power shift is underway, restoring a measure of control back to consumers. As Webster noted, “retailers need to earn the right to be remembered.”