New research from Epiphany reveals young consumers more willing to exchange personal data for improved customer experiences

The survey report, Understanding Consumer Behaviour, is free to download.

New YouGov research commissioned by search specialist Epiphany has revealed that the younger generation of consumers are far more willing than their older counterparts to share personal data with brands – but, crucially, only in exchange for an improved customer experience…

Founded as a specialist search agency in 2005, Epiphany today employs more than 180 people at its bases in Leeds and London, delivering SEO, PPC and display services to a diverse range of clients.

Tom Salmon, managing director of Epiphany, which became part of Jaywing in 2014, believes the marketplace surrounding search-related digital services has become far more complex in recent years.

He says: “Attributing value to different marketing activities, both on and offline, is important.

“We know from our clients’ experiences that there are huge benefits to understanding the entire customer journey – from initial awareness to driving footfall in-store – eventually leading to a purchase either online or offline.”

For this reason, late last year, Epiphany commissioned a survey from leading market research firm YouGov to explore consumer motivations when researching and making purchases. An online panel of 2,029 adults responded to the survey and the results were weighted to be representative of all UK over 18s.

With three quarters of the UK population now owners of a smartphone, the survey uncovered significant differences in how different age groups are using their devices. For example, the research found that 55% of those aged 18-24 watch video on their smartphones daily – but only 8% of those aged 55 and over said the same.

“The 25-34 age group is by far the most comfortable using mobile phones for online transactions,” says Salmon. “36% of the population use mobile phones to make purchases but that figure jumps to 60% of those aged 25-36. A third of that age group makes purchases via their mobile every day.”

The research also found that 28% of the population use their smartphones for online banking, increasing to almost half (49%) of those aged 25-34.

Nice attitude

The divergent attitudes of the generations were again apparent when the survey explored how consumers felt about personalised advertising. Older consumers were more averse to being tracked and targeted with adverts during their online sessions: more than half (55%) of those aged over 55 stated they would prefer adverts not target them online, compared with 43% of 25-34 year olds.

The survey also asked if people would be happy to share more of their personal data if it meant more accurate search results. Again, there was more willingness from younger consumers, with almost a fifth (19%) of 18-24 year olds agreeing, compared with just 5% of those aged 55 and over.

Salmon says: “For me the research demonstrates the heightened expectations that we all have in terms of what technology can do for us - particularly where it comes to search, personal assistants and personalisation. It reveals that more of us are happy to give over some level of personal data in exchange for better experiences or service.

“Of course, for marketers, this means that the developments in AI, machine learning and processing power, which underpin these trends, are increasingly important to understand. For example, does content create better customer experiences? Do your data feeds work to give customers what they're looking for, regardless of whether they're searching through a screen, being recommended things by a personal assistant or speaking to Alexa?”

Salmon suggests that brands looking to tackle these issues should find the gaps in their current knowledge of their customers’ journeys and, above all, keep on learning and improving:

“Use the data you already have to piece together as much of your customers’ online journeys as possible, then identify gaps in the bigger picture (such as offline data) and understand when your audience might be willing to share more information and what they are look for in exchange. Audiences are using new platforms to search and find what they want, so look beyond search and build up a bigger picture of where your audience is spending their time and what they are doing.

“To personalise marketing material effectively, brands need a single customer view, the ability to segment audiences and to track their paths. Targeted communications can deepen your relationships with new and existing customers, providing more useful data which, in turn, can be used to further improve in-site recommendations, creating a virtuous circle of activity and an engaged, satisfied audience.

“The key is to keep analysing your data and feeding the findings back into your strategies. This shouldn’t just be customer data, you can also use product availability and stock levels to create intelligent and sophisticated advertising that maximises the efficiency of your marketing spend.”

The full survey report – Understanding Consumer Behaviour – is available to download for free.

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