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New research released today by Webtrends looks at British attitudes towards data sharing in 2014. It reveals that, despite common perceptions of ‘Big Brother’, UK consumers are surprisingly relaxed about sharing their data with businesses.

More than half of Britons (58 per cent) say they’re not concerned about the amount of data they share with brands. 18-24 year olds are least concerned – 68 per cent believe the amount they share is currently about right or are not bothered about it, followed by 64 per cent of 25-34 year olds. However consumers aged 55 and over are much more cautious, with half objecting to sharing data with brands completely.

Similarly, fewer than a quarter (23 per cent) of 18-24 year olds believe data sharing will be viewed negatively in the future, compared to 49 per cent of Brits aged 55 and over.

John Fleming, Webtrends Marketing Director EMEA & APAC, says: “The common perception is that Britons are terrified of ‘Big Brother’ watching them, but this isn’t quite the case when it comes to brands. Younger generations have grown up in a far more connected, data-centric world and often recognise the benefits of sharing personal info with their favourite brands. And with only 19 per cent of respondents saying they don’t like receiving personalised content from brands, it paints a clear picture that attitudes are continually evolving.

“This opens the door for companies to be more creative and innovative in how they use customer data. For example, we’re starting to see exciting steps forward in the field of contextual personalisation, which brings together historical online data with real-time factors such as the user’s device, location and time of day to create a uniquely personal, in-the-moment experience.

“Increasingly we’re seeing brands use this to close the offline and online loop – using known online behaviour to drive sales in-store through the use of new technologies such as Apple’s iBeacons. Relevancy ultimately breeds trust, and as brands continue to enhance and personalise their customers’ experiences, the perception of these brands improves and data sharing increases.”

The research shows that even reluctant Brits can be persuaded to share personal data in exchange for special offers or discounts. A free lunch won’t quite cut it, but one in three say they could be persuaded to give up their personal data for a discount on clothes (36 per cent), free delivery (31 per cent) or a discount on a holiday or travel (28 per cent).

John adds: “Brands can take advantage of this by utilising online analytics to find out more about customers’ preferences based on their behaviour, and then offer them more of what they want, when they want it.”

However the Webtrends research, which canvassed 2,000 Britons aged 18 and over, found that there’s a big difference when it comes to the type of business requesting consumers’ data.

For instance, 64 per cent of Britons are happy to share their name and email address with a retail brand, but this reduces to just 17 per cent when it comes to more detailed information, such as their home address or income level. Likewise, while 49 per cent would share basic info with a travel company, when asked for detailed information this drastically reduces to 10 per cent. And just 5 per cent of people say they would share this level of detail with a charity.

John says: “Brands often have to compete with legacy perceptions – for example, people may have had a bad experience with a charity using their information for persistent communications and telemarketing. Consumers also forget to uncheck the marketing tick box and then get deluged with irrelevant and untimely offers.

“However companies can overcome this. Through smarter use of the data they have, brands can personalise their communications, time them more appropriately and engage with their customers in the way they prefer, which leads to greater brand perception, loyalty and trust – a win-win-win.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: 2,000 British consumers aged 18 and over were surveyed in this research, which was undertaken independently for Webtrends by OnePoll in Q2 2014.

Published on: 12:02PM on 25th July 2014