Are your customers hot or not? Channel sharing and customer preferences

By Marie Myles, Director of Analytics and Consulting

November 29, 2012 | 5 min read

Marketers are increasingly feeling the pressure as they compete to get the attention of customers at a time when both businesses and consumers are feeling the pinch financially. Key to starting conversations with customers is identifying the channels on which they are happy to share data.

With this in mind, Experian recently undertook research into the attitudes of UK consumers, designed to explore their views on sharing data with brands across digital and traditional channels. The results highlight some interesting trends, particularly with regard to age groups and willingness to share data.

Ranking respondents according to the number of channels that they are happy to share data across, the research found that customers fit into one of four groups:

• Hot – likely to share information across 3-5 channels

• Warm – likely to share information across 2 channels

• Cool – likely to share information across 1 channel

• Cold – unwilling to share information across any channels

The results clearly indicate that younger consumers are far more likely to share information across a greater number of channels than their older counterparts, with 18-24 year olds making up the largest proportion of the hot group at 12 per cent, double that of both 45-54 year olds and those in the 55+ group.

These results reinforce the notion that marketers must ensure that they choose the right channel for their messages – for example younger consumers are more likely to engage with brands across multiple channels and on digital channels. In addition, it stresses the importance of linking data and channel strategies to communicate effectively with this cross-channel breed of consumer.

Digital channels featured strongly with younger consumers – the research found that one fifth (19 per cent) of 18-24 year olds were happy to be contacted on Facebook, along with 14 per cent of 24-35 year olds, against a sample wide average of 8 per cent. These numbers rapidly tail off into the older age groups, however, with a mere 3 per cent of 55+ respondents happy to be contacted on the social network.

This hints at a dichotomy between respondents: while marketers may be dealing with a broadly engaged younger section of customers, the opposite is true of older generations. Over 55s were the most likely to reject contact from marketers, making up the vast proportion of the “cold” group, with 20 per cent stating that they were unwilling to share data across any channel. With the older population of the UK growing at a steady rate, this represents a clear challenge to marketers attempting to reach this group.

One factor that may assist in encouraging customers of all age groups to interact more with brands is by building trust with consumers around data. Trust and relevancy lie at the heart of customer engagement – organisations must use their data with respect, and strictly adhere to data agreements with customers. This is put into perspective by the fact that 47 per cent of respondents indicated that they believed that their data was shared with third parties despite what they agreed with the brand, while another 50 per cent stated that they did not trust any brand with their data, regardless of sector. Clearly, these are issues that need to be addressed if brands are to forge real engagement with their customers.

While this piece of research highlights the challenges faced by marketers – particularly when engaging with older age groups – they can be encouraged by the fact that customer interaction with brands is only going to increase. Younger people are becoming increasingly familiar with brands, sharing information across a growing number of channels. They also seem to understand the advantages that this gives them as consumers – 71 per cent (the highest proportion) of 18-24 year olds share their data to obtain access to relevant offers and products.

Clearly marketers can expect more engagement with customers as younger age groups mature. The challenge now is to use effective targeting to reach more remote sections of the customer base, and to assuage doubts about how brands use data in a growing population of older groups with large reserves of spending power.


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