Consumers Want to Be Understood Despite Privacy Concerns: SAS Study

By Darryl K. Taft

ORLANDO, Fla.—SAS Institute, a provider of business analytics software, delivered results of a recent study that indicates that despite an uptick in privacy concerns, consumers want to be understood by the businesses with which they interact.

At the SAS Media Day at the company's headquarters in Cary, N.C., and again at the company's Premier Business Leadership Series (PBLS) here, SAS officials said public consternation over government access to personal data has once again thrown the spotlight on consumers' concerns over data privacy. But when organizations use personal data responsibly, are consumers happy with the results?

A new study from SAS says they are. While 71 percent of the 1,260 respondents surveyed said that recent news increased their privacy concerns, 60 percent said they still expect businesses to know their preferences and understand their needs. And 59 percent indicate seeing an improvement in personalized communications by businesses over the past five years.

"The more affluent consumers—those earning over $100,000—and those under 30 have higher expectations; they want more intimacy with businesses," said Pamela Prentice, SAS chief research officer and author of a post on the research, in a presentation to the media.

Indeed, the study showed that respondents with incomes over $100,000 were more likely to expect businesses to understand them (67 percent), as were those under age 30 (66 percent). Those with higher salaries also reported improved personalization (69 percent) and fewer irrelevant messages (44 percent). Again, numbers for those under age 30 were similar.

"When businesses use analytics wisely, and with sensitivity to customers' personally identifiable information, it's a win-win," said Wilson Raj, global customer intelligence director at SAS, in a statement. "It's a win for brands that nurture profitable relationships based on a deep understanding of their customers. And consumers win when they receive relevant offers and communications from vendors they prefer." But, he points out, technology can help companies adhere to a strict code of ethics for protecting customer information. "Data privacy policies require a thoughtful data management and integration strategy to ensure not only effective marketing, but also authentic and welcome customer contacts."

When respondents were asked to rate their perception of different industries and how well they understand their customers, online retailers earned the highest score, averaging a rating of 3.8 of 5 stars. One in four respondents named Amazon.com as the company that best understands its customers. Why? Overwhelmingly, respondents said it is Amazon's ability to target recommendations based on buying and search patterns.

Grocery stores also fared very well in the survey, coming up with a rating of 3.6 stars out of 5 and tying for second with entertainment providers and local retailers, both of which are able to gain a significant amount of data on consumers based on the frequency of their visits.

"Through our purchase transactions, online visits and other interactions, businesses capture data about who we are, what we like, how we shop and how we behave," Prentice said in her post. "We leave a trail of information behind us. And businesses can use this information to target their products and services to us in many ways: online, through the mail, through our mobile devices, social media and more."

Trailing behind other industries with just 3.3 and 3.0 stars out of 5, respectively, were airlines and hospitality. "It's disappointing that the airline and hospitality industries get such mediocre scores from the public," said Kelly McGuire, Ph.D., executive director of the Hospitality and Travel Global Practice for SAS. "With the amount of data they collect—from loyalty cards, review sites, online browsing and bookings—they have a treasure trove of customer insights available to them. Clearly there is a huge opportunity here. Based on these results, those that effectively turn data into customer insights will be the ones that win."

When asked to score companies with which they do business, two of three bank customers said their bank understands them. Only 57 percent of national retailer customers and 51 percent of mobile phone provider customers said the same.

Banks outperformed national retailers and mobile providers in having relevant information at hand during customer interactions and for making transactions easy through all channels. Men are more likely than women to say their bank understands them (69 percent versus 62 percent). And respondents with incomes over $100,000 gave banks higher marks on personalization than other customers, citing that the banks only send them relevant offers and recommendations.

Customer analytics from SAS helps provide customer insights to organizations so they can deliver marketing offers that are anticipated, relevant and timely. As the backbone for all marketing and customer-centered activities, SAS customer analytics comprises techniques such as predictive modeling, data visualization, information management and segmentation.


This article was originally published on 2013-10-23