Consumer loyalty depends on privacy and data security, survey finds

The survey of over 4,000 consumers worldwide revealed that 70% of people are more concerned about privacy than they were five years ago, and 68% feel they have lost control over how their information is shared and used by businesses.

“The gap between consumer expectations and what businesses are actually delivering on the security front is quite large”, said Pete Pedersen, chairman of Edelman’s global technology practice. “Consumers are more aware than ever before of issues surrounding their privacy and the security that ensures that privacy”, he told Infosecurity.

When shopping for smartphones, 48% of respondents reported that data security is one of the top three factors in their purchasing decision, a consideration that proved important for more people than the style, design, warranty, and size of the product, according to the survey conducted by StrategyOne on behalf of Edelman.

“Not only are consumers more aware of it, but they are starting to take action. And that action varies in form from making choices about products and services based on particular privacy implications or the lack of robust security of a particular product to telling friends and colleagues in very vocal ways about data breaches and identity theft. So there is almost a viral nature to it, which spells reputational risk for companies”, Pedersen said.

One in two people buying a personal computer and 42% of those shopping for tablet computers said that data security is among their top three considerations – for the former, outweighing the physical dimensions, style, and design of the device and for the latter, factoring in almost equally.

The study indicated that consumers are hesitant to do business with companies they perceive to be incapable of protecting their personal data; 46% of those surveyed reported leaving or avoiding companies that have suffered a security breach. In the wake of a data breach, individuals are even willing to abandon the companies they trust most.

“Consumers are telling us these issues are important and do impact their purchasing decisions”, Pedersen said.

Globally, Americans are the most reluctant consumers to part ways with businesses to which they are loyal, yet one in two said they are likely to change brands after a data breach. The potential for customers to jump ship increased for companies that lack brand loyalty, with 70% saying they would switch providers were such an event to occur.

While 92% of people globally considered data security and privacy important in the financial industry, just 69% trusted financial institutions to adequately protect their personal information. Online retailers fared even worse. While 84% indicated the security of their personal information is important to them when shopping online, just 33% said they trust online retailers to protect it.

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