Exceeding customer expectations around data privacy will be key to marketers’ success, new studies find

Two landmark studies – commissioned by Google in association with Ipsos and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) – have provided unique insights into the complex and contradictory attitudes customers have to privacy online, and the opportunities brands have to reconcile those tensions1. They have also shown how the most digitally mature marketers are best placed to respond to these shifting customer dynamics, being twice as likely to grow their market share over a 12-month period compared to less digitally mature marketers2.

Amsterdam, 9 September 2021 - Responsible use of first-party data by marketers unlocks significant revenue and efficiency rewards, while also satisfying customers’ demand for greater control over how their personal data is used online, according to two landmark studies commissioned by Google, in collaboration with Ipsos and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) respectively. 

In a new report from Ipsos, commissioned by Google, entitled ‘Privacy by Design: Exceeding Customer Expectations’, it’s revealed that: 

  • More than two-thirds (70%) of internet users aged 16-74 globally are concerned about how the information collected about them when they go online is used; 
  • Only 3% of respondents believe they have complete control of the disclosure and removal of their data online; 
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of those surveyed said they felt sceptical about the way companies used their data in marketing; 
  • But people are more satisfied with ads they consider valuable – a global survey by Ipsos shows that nine in 10 internet users (91%) aged 16-74 say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them; 
  • Participants who felt close to a brand were more likely to give the brand permission to show them valuable offers based on more detailed data; 
  • Those surveyed were three times more likely to respond positively to advertising when they felt a greater sense of control over how their data was being used; 
  • And the closer someone is to making a purchase, the more likely they are to perceive ads as relevant to them and have positive emotions after seeing them

The Ipsos report – which includes three large quantitative studies conducted across different European countries, including UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden between 2019 and 2021 – provides a unique insight into the complex and contradictory ways customers behave online, and the opportunities brands have to reconcile those tensions. 
Ipsos refer to this dichotomy as the “say-do gap”: for example, 80% of those questioned said they were concerned about potential misuse of personal information, but 93% also agreed to provide companies with information which could be deemed sensitive, such as name, address, contact information, or family details, in exchange for the service provided. 
The report cautions that while there are great rewards for marketers to being privacy-first, the consequences of getting it wrong are correspondingly troubling: brands who don’t give privacy the attention it deserves risk losing the trust and respect of their customers. 
Ipsos identified three key areas in which marketers can go beyond minimum legal requirements to put customer privacy first, while still creating impactful campaigns: 

  1. Make it meaningful: People will voluntarily share their data with companies that demonstrate a clear value proposition. Marketers can respond by clearly communicating the value of an exchange to the customer and anticipating their customers’ needs with relevant and timely messages. 
  2. Make it memorable: Conscious permission is a valuable thing. People have a limited understanding of how online privacy works, and that affects the way they feel about advertising. But when they remember the choices they have made about data sharing, they have more positive responses. 
  3. Make it manageable: People expect a sense of control over their personal data, and when they feel they lack that control, they can become sceptical of digital marketing. Marketers should provide the tools and information customers need to manage their privacy preferences, such as frequency of communication and opting out of interest categories.  

Katherine Jameson Armstrong, Head of Qualitative Media Research at Ipsos MORI, said: “Our research shows how important it is for brands to get privacy right. This is a complex area and people’s attitudes and behaviours can be contradictory. In this context, it is easy to misstep and risk a loss of trust and respect. However, brands can play a vital role in helping people navigate this complex area by making interactions more meaningful, manageable, and memorable, creating stronger relationships in the process.”


The Ipsos research, conducted over the years 2019 to 2021, also consisted of multiple qualitative and quantitative components, including: 
An online study of 1,000 participants per market aged 18-65 across four European markets (U.K., Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands) to understand the perceived impact of personalised services; 
An online survey of 1,002 participants aged 18-70 across four European markets  (U.K., Germany, France, and the Netherlands). This study uses an experimental quantitative approach to model and map claimed versus actual behaviours; 
An online survey of 1,002 participants aged 20-65 – a representative sample of the population of the Netherlands who are online at least a few times a week; 
An online survey of 7,200 participants aged 18-70 across four European markets (U.K., Germany, France, and the Netherlands); 
Ethnographic research to explore the impact of personalised services, working with participants in the UK and Hamburg; 
In-depth interviews with 12 participants aged 25-68 in the Netherlands to explore notions of data privacy; 
A multi-method qualitative study in the UK to explore the concept of responsible marketing with 14 participants aged 18-60, using a mix of individual interviews, self-led data audits, and group discussions.

Consumer & Shopper