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What is Privacy Worth to Your Customers?

Sarah Timmings is the co-author of What is Privacy Worth to Your Customers?, a new study about consumer attitudes towards their data, privacy, and financial services companies tracking and targeting them through personalized marketing.

Targeted ads are everywhere – online, on TV, on streaming radio, even on billboards. We’ve all had personal experiences with them at some point. Sometimes they’re helpful. Sometimes they’re annoying. But they always remind us that — somewhere, or perhaps everywhere — a company has you in their sights.

Personalized marketing can be particularly complicated for financial services companies, whose customers expect their data to be used both sensibly and securely. The stakes are high because, in addition to privacy concerns, customers are increasingly concerned with data security, and there are consequences when there is a breach of trust.

Why is this all important? Because today’s consumers have a lot more knowledge, more control, and more choice than they did 10 years ago, or even last year, for that matter. Technology has transported the world of financial services from faraway office buildings and banks to the phones in consumers’ pockets. They expect financial services companies to adapt to the way they want to conduct business, to anticipate their evolving needs, and to exceed their expectations.

A 2014 Communispace study on consumer perception of personalized marketing, Beyond the Bull’s-Eye: Building Meaningful Relationships in the Age of Big Data, highlighted the balance between adding value and crossing the line when using customer data. Armed with this knowledge, we set out to explore the nuances in consumer perception when we applied these learnings directly to the financial services industry.

In the new study of more than 3,000 consumers, What is Privacy Worth to Your Customers?, we sought to more specifically understand how they feel about financial services companies tracking and targeting them. The study digs in to what data consumers would be willing to trade for perks, what marketing practices they deem okay or not okay, and how they want to do business with financial services companies.

Ultimately, we found that, when it comes to financial services, customers give companies with whom they have relationships more permission to use their personal data in exchange for advantageous recommendations than they do in other industries. On the flip side, consumers have higher expectations of these companies – as well as an increased ability to seek alternatives to traditional financial services firms. With more options than ever before, their ideal relationship with a financial services company is one that alleviates their pain points while helping them control their finances and their privacy.

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