by Haidee LeClair, Senior Content & Community Manager at Privitar

We recently completed our 2020 Consumer Trust and Data Privacy Report, and, to no one’s surprise, consumers remain concerned about sharing personal data with companies. With data breaches in the news weekly, it’s imperative that businesses take a leadership role in protecting their customers’ data. Customer loyalty may depend on it.

The importance of protecting personal data

Like more than three-quarters of our respondents, I’m concerned (or very concerned) about protecting my personal data. Indeed, 42 percent of consumers surveyed indicated that they would not share sensitive data (such as name, address, email address, phone number, location information, health information, banking information, social security number) with a business for any reason. That’s a surprising statistic, and it seems almost impossible to adhere to today.

That’s not to say these concerns are not valid. So how can businesses address these consumer concerns about their data? While security is certainly a factor, success will depend on an organizations’ ability to prioritize and successfully execute on privacy initiatives. This, in turn, may drive customer loyalty.

1. Disconnected consumer sentiment and actions surrounding data protection

In terms of managing their data, many consumers aren’t fully aware of how brands are securing their personal information. According to the survey, almost half of consumers don’t know if they’ve done business with an organization that’s been impacted by a data breach. (They almost certainly have — here’s a list of the biggest breaches so far this year.) And when it comes to those endless privacy notices, 28 percent admit to not reading privacy notices at all, while 42 percent only skimmed the text. And yet it’s not really their responsibility to examine these privacy notices in depth. Indeed, consumers should be able to trust that the businesses they share their information with will keep their data safe. Businesses that make data privacy essential stand out,  helping them to build long-term loyalty based on trust.

2. Consumers remain wary

Despite growing capabilities when it comes to data protection, 51 percent of consumers surveyed aren’t comfortable sharing their personal information. Their reasons are understandable — one-third of respondents are concerned primarily about their data being stolen in a breach. And another quarter are worried about their information being shared with a third party.

Right now, COVID-19 tracking, tracing, containment and research relies on citizens opting in to share their personal data. Yet the research shows that consumers aren’t interested in sharing their information. Indeed, only 27 percent indicated their willingness to share health data for healthcare advancements and research. Just 21 percent of consumers surveyed were willing to share health data for contact tracing purposes.

We know that data can play a significant role to play in learning about and controlling the spread of COVID-19, including contact tracing, medical research, and logistics planning. Each of these is reliant on different data sets, many of which contain sensitive personal information. As data becomes increasingly valuable in efforts to combat the pandemic, companies must provide consumers with more background and reasoning as to why they’re collecting data — and how they plan to protect it. 

3. Upcoming U.S. elections and state legislation drive consumer awareness of data privacy

Recently, there’s been increased conversation about data privacy and protection legislation across the United States, especially since the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is in effect and the Consumer Data Privacy & Security Act (CDPSA) remains under discussion in Congress. 73 percent of consumers indicated their belief that there should be more government oversight at the federal, state, and local levels (or some combination of the three). Legislation may take time to get through Congress, but data privacy regulations are definitely coming. While legislation can take years to pass, regulations continue to change worldwide, so businesses need to make certain their technology and processes can address consumers’ concerns quickly.

4. Businesses must drive data privacy action

Most organizations rely on contract renewals — driven by brand loyalty — to keep operations running. They have a new opportunity to build that loyalty: by ensuring a personal sense of trust within their customer base. Based on our survey results, their customers demand it.

Nearly a quarter of respondents indicated that they’ve either stopped doing business or done less business with a company after it was breached. In a fluctuating economy, markets are going to become increasingly competitive. If you want your customers to stick with you, your organization will need to become more open and transparent about how it is using personal data. Our survey shows that your customer loyalty depends on it.

Trust is critical to customer loyalty

The global COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of the trust companies and governments need to build with consumers in our increasingly digital world. Our actions generate a vast amount of data — and we can use it to improve customer experiences, recommendations, health information, and much more. What’s essential is that we protect and manage sensitive data, while benefiting from everything it offers.

Learn more about our survey in our press release, and check out the complete infographic for more details on the results.