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Disclosure of how personal information is being used is a differentiator for businesses

Caddle examines trust and transparency in customer data
grocery data
Despite the consensus that data privacy is important, Canadians admit to being unclear on the details of how their information is used.

In our increasingly online world, companies have access to a wealth of customer data and not everyone is comfortable with it. In 2021, Statistics Canada found large businesses were most likely to collect client information. Whether through online tracking technology or loyalty and reward programs, 94% of those businesses collected their data directly from the customer. 

With personalization a priority for most shoppers, Caddle conducted a series of three surveys of thousands of Canadians in December 2023, to get a sense of how they feel about businesses using their data for marketing purposes. The results are in, and it’s clear Canadians are conflicted about how their information is used.

A whopping 72.6% of respondents said data privacy was very important to them, with the boomer generation leading the pack. Younger, more digitally savvy, generations were more likely to side with the 2% who said data privacy was not at all important. Yet, most consumers agreed that personal data should not be used for commercial purposes. Only 14% said they were open to data being used by businesses, while 66% of respondents said they were not.

READ: Sklar Wilton’s Michael D’Abramo on how to handle data

There’s a gendered difference in information-sharing preferences. Men were significantly more in favour of businesses using their data, while women were marginally more likely to say they weren’t. Generationally speaking, boomers were the least comfortable with commercial use of their data compared to millennials and gen Z, who were more likely to say they have no problem with the practice.

Despite the consensus that data privacy is important, Canadians admitted to being unclear on the details of how their information is used. Only 13.1% said they always read a website or application’s terms and conditions, while just 38.1% of consumers said they were somewhat familiar with the regulations and laws governing data privacy. 

When it comes to online ads, consumers believe companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon are using their data to shape what they see. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for just over 27% of Canadians who said they were somewhat interested in seeing online ads that are personalized to them.

While Canadians may be conflicted on the risks and rewards of giving companies free rein over their personal data in return for better shopping experiences, there are conditions in which they would be more amenable to sharing their information. It’s clear that more transparency around how their data is used would put customers at ease. For instance, 55.4% said it would be enough just receiving notifications whenever their personal data was collected, 50.8% would be more comfortable if their personal data was deleted, and 43% said they would feel better if their personal data was made anonymous. 

READ: EY’s Zahra Jamani talks disruption in the food and beverage space

Though 29.8% of respondents said they weren’t at all interested in sharing their personal data to receive ads tailored to their preferences and shopping history, some Canadians could be swayed in favour of giving businesses access to their data. A cash reward appealed to 57% of respondents, whereas a store credit appealed to 5.6% of people. 

As Canadians amass bigger and bigger data footprints, they’re torn between the convenience of personalization and maintaining some control over what they share and with whom. In fact, most respondents said they would be very or somewhat interested in a product or service that managed their data privacy for them—a mere 2.8% said they weren’t at all interested. 

The conversation will continue to evolve, but there are clear rewards for businesses and brands that are transparent about how customer data is being collected, stored and used. Those that give the consumer choice will undoubtedly see returns in loyalty in a market rife with competitors.

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