2017 Consumer Digital Usage and Behaviour Study

White Paper

One of the most important aspects of First-Person Marketing is understanding the consumer in as many ways as possible. That means knowing not just what they think about a brand or the products and services offered under that brand, but their attitudes about the many forms of technology that bring them into contact with that brand.

First-Person Marketers understand their customer universe, whether they operate in the business world of B2B or connect with consumers in B2C marketing. This understanding comes in part from the marketing intelligence gathered from the people who subscribe to a brand's email, visit the website, attend special events, interact on the phone and in face-to-face encounters.

This study lays out major trends in consumer usage and behavior of different technologies and devices in digital (web and email), mobile, and social media. We hope you use the insights and statistics contained herein to understand and anticipate shifts in the general population. We also hope you compare these insights against what you have learned about your specific customer base.

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Chapter 1: How consumers view and use email and mobile

In this section, we asked a number of personal questions that put email and mobile use into specific contexts that marketers can use to redefine and refocus their messaging strategies.

We didn't want to know only that consumers use smartphones (we know they do), but when and how they use them. We learned in 2016 that consumers check email all day long; this year we learned what else they're doing when they check email.

Expect to find a few surprises in this chapter. Pay attention to the questions that reveal consumers have multiple email addresses – and that those email addresses are not created equally.

Q1: Do you own a smartphone and if so, which of the following activities do you use it for?

Smartphones are in nearly everyone’s hands as of the end of 2016. Mobile isn’t just smartphones though: over half the people in our survey said they have tablets and use them regularly.

It is no surprise therefore, that the results for this question are consistent year-over-year – people are very active on their phones and use them for every capability they have. From social media to personal email, to browsing and texting, the mobile device is becoming the center of the universe.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - When we say "mobile-first," we mean people are thinking mobile, not just desktops, even among the older demographics. Review your message templates to see how well they render on mobile, and upgrade where necessary.

Q2: Which of the following activities do you use your smartphone for THE MOST?

This is a new question in our survey, designed to tease out which activities consumers said they use most often on their phones.

Unsurprisingly, texting came in at the No. 1 activity overall, with email ranking fourth below texting, social media, and phone calls. But look who's using their phones primarily to text – Baby Boomers! Not teens and Millennials, which you may have predicted.

Baby Boomers are more likely to use their phones for personal communications – phone calls (34%), texting (28%), and email (14%), while teens use the phone more to check in via social media (40%), texting (24%), and Internet browsing (9%).

This leads to a whole new topic: What is a smartphone? Baby Boomers see it as a phone they carry around with them. Teens see the phone as their gateway to the wider world.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Understand these differing views of the smartphone when developing messaging programs for them. Are customers more likely to view the phone as a connection device or a gateway? This also has implications for how consumers are likely to view the different types of messaging channels available to marketers on the smartphone.

Q3: What email provider do you primarily use?

Once again, Gmail is the top email provider across all generations. For teens, Gmail rules over all other providers with an 84% share because they see Google-branded products as the cool thing.

Baby Boomers, who have been doing email for nearly three decades, have seen the rise and fall of AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, and other services and remain more fragmented. However, they, too, are gravitating to Gmail (43% this year, compared with 28% in 2016).

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Master Gmail if you want your messages to reach your subscribers, no matter how old they are. Yes, Gmail is also the service that makes some marketers nervous given its rigorous spam filtering and its tabbed inboxes, but we're now seeing new research about the effects these innovations are having on email performance. The news isn't all bad, we promise! Regardless, it's still the one you have to get right.

If you don't already know what percentage of your readers view your email through Gmail, run a domain report. Also, get with your deliverability gurus to see how well you deliver into Gmail and your other major domains, and start working on ways to raise those numbers

Q4: How many personal and business email addresses do you have?

The major finding for this question is that consumers have on average three or more email addresses. This is higher than what we learned in Adestra's 2016 Consumer Report, where we found 39% of consumers had two addresses, and 20% had three.

This could result from different audiences being polled in different years, but it's also important for marketers to understand that consumers have and use more than one email address.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - This is a key point in First-Person Marketing: using the email address to identify the consumer across big data points. If you know it's the default for a consumer to have more than one email address, you must admit the possibility that your customers might be giving you their least valuable email addresses. That can hurt your ability to communicate effectively.

Marketers need to redefine email address collection goals. Instead of looking for volume, look for quality first. Give consumers a reason to give you their primary email address.

How do you measure whether the email address is the primary? By checking that it shows consistent activity over a short length of time after you acquire it.

The metric on measuring acquisition should change from bringing in X amount of addresses acquired, to X number of addresses acquired and Y amount determined to be active. That shows your marketing efforts are working.

Q5: Do you have a specific separate email address used exclusively for emails you rarely intend to open?

Here, 53% of consumers said they don't have email addresses they use only for emails they don't really want. This is lower than expected, given the fact that many consumers have multiple email addresses.

A closer look at the numbers shows that only about a third (34.1%) of older consumers have a “junk mail” email address, but nearly three fifths (57.4%) of younger consumers do. Either younger consumers are more likely to give out a secondary email address, or older consumers are less likely to admit it. We do know from previous surveys – ours and others – that people do reserve secondary addresses for messages they don't intend to open regularly.

Regardless, most marketers with younger audiences will find secondary email addresses to be a reality to contend with.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - This question underscores the importance of the value exchange. Consumers will give out their primary email addresses when they believe that the value they receive justifies or requires it. Be wary of email addresses you receive from consumers who do not perceive enough importance in what marketers have offered in return.

Q6: During what events throughout your day do you read email?

We all like to know what our customers and subscribers are doing when they read our emails. We envision them sitting down in front of their computers or fixing their attention on their phones and tablets and getting into the email mindset. The reality is different.

Customers read emails at random all day long (83%). More specifically, when they have nothing else more interesting to do: when they're bored (50%), in bed (35%), in a meeting (21%), even in the bathroom (22%).

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - This tells us that people are not so much settling down for a purposeful session of email consumption. Instead, they check email whenever and wherever they are, which also means their attention span can be limited. That scattershot approach needs to be accounted for in your messaging content and design.

This also casts more doubt on attempts to optimize sending times, which assumes that consumers will open email at the same time every day.

Send-time optimization is based on historical open rates. Be cautious, and look at your models and algorithms that determine the best time of day. The statistics show many inconsistencies. Some marketers do well with send-time optimization, while others find no value. Testing will determine if this tactic can work for you.

Chapter 2: General consumer actions and attitudes

In the previous section, we talked about how important mobile is in conversations with consumers. Text messages represent untapped opportunities for most companies. Thankfully businesses generally appear to be judicious with their text messaging to consumers. This reflects, to some extent, government regulations about permission and unsubscribing.

The overriding theme of SMS messaging is consent. What types of messages do consumers want to receive via SMS? Permission-based push notifications are a prime example, especially in travel and hospitality. Still, our research uncovered some consumer unease with message frequency, leading us to remind marketers that consent and value together will lead to successful SMS programs.

Q7: What is the main reason you would subscribe to a company's text messaging program?

Our study found 50% of consumers sign up for coupons. No other category in our survey generated even close to this level of interest. Even events notifications were only mentioned by 15.9% of consumers. This high interest in coupons – which generally have high perceived value – suggests that consumers expect and want communications from companies to have high value.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Marketers need to focus on ensuring that their communications, whether they include coupons or not, do have very high perceived value. This is especially true in the SMS channel, where the interruption factor is high and, therefore, tolerance for unwanted distractions is low.

Q8: From what type of businesses do you sign up for text messages?

When we asked this question, the predominant answer was "I don't." That means a lot of people don't want marketers’ text messages. That clear answer should kill, once and for all, the issue of appending mobile records and contacting customers under the guise of permission.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - In countries around the world, laws clearly require recipient consent. Focus on managing consumer expectations of an SMS program, and build it by making sure that each message provides high perceived value.

In this way, an individual brand may see attitudes toward their messages become more positive over time. Appending would thwart this effort (besides complying with most laws worldwide). So, avoid mobile appends. Careful growth is key to a successful and well-regarded mobile program.

Q9: What would be the right number of messages per month for text messaging that would keep you engaged and thus not opt out?

Marketers will not be surprised to find that consumers overwhelmingly (82.4%) chose the lowest frequency option in the survey. This channel is still new to marketing, and this answer is consistent with survey data from the early days of the email channel.

A preference for fewer rather than more messages tells us that consumers fear their text inboxes will get as overloaded as the email inbox. In email, marketers often fall into the trap of emailing just to email, because the calendar or somebody higher up in the organization says "Send another email." With text messaging, we can't do that. Marketers must steer clear of the temptation of "texting just to send another text."

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Be very careful with frequency and cadence. Always check the purpose of each message before you send it. Does it fulfill the consumer's expressed need or requests? Test carefully and always with high-value messages to avoid damaging this emerging channel.

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Chapter 3: How consumers interact with messaging

In this section, we look at how consumers behave in their communication habits. Where do email, texting, social media, chat apps, and even old-fashioned voice calls rank in their preferences and priorities?

We also examined what they want and expect when they sign up for messages from different sources. It's no surprise to find out, as we did in 2016, 85% will say they want discounts, promotions, 50% off, and free shipping in email. That's what we've taught them to say and to expect.

But, what we haven't taught them is that email is a way to get information on products or learn about news and device updates. It’s also a great way to build brand love or to participate in company research.

If you see that your email program is 99% promotional content, you're doing a disservice to your customers. There's a swath of them who want more than just a discount.

Q10: How early do you check email, text messages, social media, and voice mail after you wake up in the morning and what is the first thing you check on the phone when starting the day?

As we saw in Adestra's 2016 Consumer Usage and Adoption Study, consumers are peering at their smartphone screens first thing in the morning before they do anything else. This year, we found 41% start their days this way.

The reason why we asked consumers what they check first thing every day was to get a better handle on their priorities. A third of consumers check their text messages first, followed by personal email (24%), social media (15%), and phone calls (11%). The implication is clear – consumers are hungry to reconnect to the world as soon as they wake up.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - As we have found out, consumers are opportunistic about checking their email throughout the day. It is tempting to view the early morning as the one reliable time to catch consumers while they are checking messages.

However, be aware that while consumers may be more likely to check email early in the day, it doesn’t mean they are more focused, or even alert or awake enough. Could lunchtime be a better opportunity at making sure consumers are more receptive to marketing offers?

Marketers know that while some people are ready to buy when they open the email, most prefer to be cajoled into it. According to Gretchen Scheiman, chief executive, L5 Direct, “Tests have shown for years that modifying call-to-action language to retain the action verb, but making it a multi-step process, helps consumers walk through the path-to-purchase faster. It is fair to assume that even consumers who are awake and attentive want to read more than what was in the email before they click 'buy now.'”

Q11: If you are getting emails from companies that you're no longer interested in, what do you do?

Maybe consumers are beginning to trust the unsubscribe link. This year we found a greater number said they unsubscribe to make unwanted email go away – 73% compared to 65% in our 2016 Consumer Study.

Email marketers who are on their game understand why this is good news. Unsubscribing means your customers care enough to say "No, thanks" rather than "Just go away" (deleting it without reading it or letting it pile up in the inbox or a folder). And, it certainly beats clicking the spam button.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Keeping the unsubscribe visible and functional is paying off for your marketing peers and competitors, so don't hide yours. Don't camouflage it in tiny type in an obscure corner of your email. Don't call it something else, either.

In addition to making unsubscribing trustworthy and easy, you can still give your customers options other than opting out. Offer them the ability to opt down to a lower frequency or to find a more interesting email stream, in addition to the complete unsubscribe option.

Q12: How likely are you to share messages from marketing/advertising emails on your social networks?

Consumers are telling us that, for the most part, they don't bother sharing marketing content with their friends through Facebook, Twitter, and other networks. This might surprise you, but not us because it's what they also told us in our 2016 Consumer Study.

This year saw a 12% decline in the number of people who are either "very" or "somewhat" likely to share content – a total of 14% of all consumers. That leaves 86% who are either unsure about the topic or uninterested in it to varying degrees.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Focus your marketing energy on strategies that produce results. Sharing to social might be a thing in the niche of your market, but if it isn't, don't try to make it one with repeated appeals.

Does that mean you should pull your social icons from your emails and not share what others have posted on your Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram feeds? Certainly not. There's still a slice of your market who are willing to share content and endorse your brands. These are your VIPs, your brand advocates and influencers.

So, redefine your social media strategy, and come up with a new goal: Identify your social sharers. Create a segment of people who love your brand, and market differently to them with special content that rewards their advocacy and influence.

Chapter 4: Teens, Boomers, and email attitudes

In 2016, Adestra made headlines with the groundbreaking finding that teens love email. Study after study found similar results, all blowing up the conventional wisdom that teens don't use email. Our study gave that tired narrative a quick death. This year, we're happy to report that the statistics for teens are comparable.

But the news isn't all about teens. You'll see how Baby Boomers, who usually lag their children and now grandchildren in technology adoption and use, are jumping on the digital bandwagon.

This points to something else we have been saying for years: Email is not dying. In fact, we're enjoying a resurgence of interest in, and enthusiasm for, email. We're reaping the benefits of First-Person Marketing, which sees the email address as a way to identify the consumer beyond just sending email communications.

It's clear, as you'll see below, that everyday life continues to be an impetus for having an email address.

Q13: If you could select a communication preference from a business, which would you choose?

More than seven in 10 consumers – 72.5% – chose email by itself, virtually the same as in 2016. Add in the 11% who want a combination of email and SMS (the next-largest group), and you've got nearly 84% of consumers who want email.

We did see a 9.4% decrease in the 14-18 cutaway, from 67% in 2016 to 60.7% this year, although that came with a 20% jump in teens who want both email and SMS.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Email reigns supreme across all age groups, including teens. Don't ignore any age groups in your messaging strategy. Get creative, too. This year's study revealed a nearly 17% drop in direct-mail interest and an 18% jump in favor of an email-SMS combination. What could that do for your marketing program?

Q14: I have an email address because…

Teens and younger Millennials told us that they have email addresses mainly because "It's a fact of everyday life" (78%). They don't use email to stay in touch with friends the way their parents and grandparents do. This is most likely because they see their friends often enough through the day that they require an even more immediate form of communication to fill the gaps. Instead, email is more of a passport to their worlds.

Students and teen employees alike use email addresses to receive school and company news, to communicate with teachers, professors and bosses, and as ID for other uses.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - The next time someone says "Teens don't use email," show this statistic. Teens definitely do use email. However, as we pointed out in Q5, teens are more likely to lead marketers astray with a secondary email address if the perceived value isn’t high enough to earn their primary email address. So be more careful about the value exchange you offer to this group.

Q15: What is your primary method for communicating with friends?

We found texting as a way consumers stay in touch with friends is in a major state of flux. Chat apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Line are eating away at texting's dominance among teens. But, it's gaining on phone calls and email for Boomers.

Texting is still the No. 1 channel for teen-to-teen communication, at 55.3%. Millennials, too, remain the top texters among all age groups. But teens are gravitating toward chat apps in a big way: almost 28% use them now, up 55.5% from what they told us in 2016.

Even Boomers, who are still the people most likely to use the phone for calling, are tapping keyboard screens almost as often as number pads. Texting (32.3%) grew by 12 percentage points over the last 12 months to displace email as the No. 2 favored way to contact friends.

These major changes point to changing preferences for personal communications. The growth in chat apps tells us that teens prefer to reach out in small bursts (and we thought Twitter's 140 characters were hard to deal with!).

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - More than ever, consumers are communicating with friends in ways we can't predict or comprehend. When developing communication plans, think in terms of the totality of communication methods when looking for ways to reach out and engage with consumers.

While it’s important to look at what Snapchat and Instagram can do for you, be sure to remember that each social outlet has a specific use, benefit, and weakness. Don't come up with a "social media" plan as a whole. Think about what you could accomplish with each channel.

Also, make sure your marketing copy and content include short phrases that can easily be integrated into consumers’ social and SMS communications. For example: “I bought new shoes” could have been “Those Steve Maddens with the tea-rose applique are MINE.” Marketers who rethink their copy in light of the way Millennials communicate could find it surprisingly rewarding.

Q16: When registering to use an app, do you prefer to sign up with email, or a social media account?

Even with all the talk about chat apps and texting supplanting email for personal communications, email continues to reign supreme across all age groups for its utility in communicating with businesses and as an identifier in the wider world.

When using mobile applications, 83% of all consumers said they prefer to use their email addresses over a social media account (14%) or some other source when registering. Even teens, who are more likely to use a social media account to register for an app than their elders, still prefer email at a rate of more than three to one.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - People see their social media outlets as separate identifiers for who they are and how they see themselves in the world. They likely consider their information in their social media accounts more private and choose not to share, even though one-click "sign in with social" services make registration easier than typing in their email addresses. But remember the finding in Chapter 1 – that people have on average more than three personal email addresses. Make sure your apps clearly demonstrate value, so that they can earn the right to receive consumers’ primary addresses.

Chapter 5: Consumer privacy and security

The email address is more valuable today. What are the implications?

We live in a world where the email address becomes more valuable as the technology evolves. Once, an email address was just an email address. But what we know now, and what First-Person Marketers understand, is that the email address is now more important than a Social Security number because we can use it to identify more about a customer based on the email address than any other single source of information.

This gives email marketers an unbelievable amount of power, not only in their own organizations but also in the way they use their power to identify the consumer. It comes with great responsibility.

If marketers realized they are as responsible for as many Social Security numbers as they are email addresses, they'd be more careful about how they handle that information.

Marketers must treat data and customers with care.

It's also helpful to know how consumers think. Marketers see the connective tissue between the data and how they use it. Consumers are in a shroud of ignorance, not because they choose to be but because they don't know how much information marketers can collect via their email addresses.

Imagine a conversation with an acquaintance who suddenly asks personal questions about recent travels, magazines you subscribe to, stores you shop at, and brands you purchase – information which you wouldn’t normally have shared with this person.

Freaky, right? Marketers have access to all of this information and more. It is enough to be disconcerting to anyone. The onus is on marketers to use it wisely.

There are, of course, a few rules or regulations to help govern behavior, including making sure consumers know how their data is being used. Take the extra steps needed to educate them about what you're doing with their information.

This doesn't mean you just give them a link to your privacy policy. It should change how you look at acquisition. And it should give you a better understanding about what consumers think about the digital landscape they live in.

Q17: When you come to a website that asks for an email address before you can access the website, what do you do?

The results for this question are consistent year-over-year. People don't want to give up their email addresses before they have a chance to look over your website. This year, more than 60% of site visitors will either leave or lie about their email with either an out-of-date or phony address.

Pair this with the results from Q4 in Chapter 1, which say consumers use at least three email addresses. This begins to put popups, popovers, and other interstitial ads in a different light.

Yes, 40% of visitors say they will provide a real address. But, that's not what you thought your acquisition efforts were driving – especially since you don’t know which 40% are valid, and which are throw-away addresses.

The popover aims for quantity of email addresses, not quality. It tells customers, "Your email address isn't that valuable." No wonder more than six in 10 will skip out or lie to make the popover go away.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Remember the value exchange. Offer prospects and customers something that they perceive is more valuable than what they are giving you. If you offer visitors a coupon, they are more likely to answer your questions correctly and completely. Carefully consider timing and placement of your offer. Certainly, there should be an email address collection point at checkout, since this is the best opportunity to capture a valid one. The value exchange is very clear here: you offer order confirmations and shipment tracking to customers who provide an active email address that they will check. However, you aren’t helping your overall customer acquisition program very much here – they’re already acquired. Conversely, a popover at site entry is too soon. It is a barrier to a prospect viewing your site and finding the information they are looking for. Timing and placement are clearly premature here. Instead, test alternatives to find the sweet spot where you capture valid email addresses and power your acquisition without losing prospects or capturing invalid, throw-away email addresses.

Q18: How comfortable would you be in providing each of these elements of personal information to a company which has products or services that you are considering purchasing?

What marketers have told us, and what we know from First-Person Marketing strategies, is that the more information we can get from customers at acquisition the better we can target them. We also can increase the match rate percentage on third-party or external data.

For years, though, marketers have concentrated mostly on just getting an email address. There is a valid reason for this: Marketers have been taught that the shorter the form, the higher the completion rate. An email address is about as short as you can get.

The problem is that the email address as a stand-alone piece of data is powerful, but the more information you have, the more certain you can be that the email address you're using is the right one. In addition, if consumers are willing to provide additional demographic information, the value of additional data might well be higher than the slight decline in the completion rate.

Items like date of birth, city, postal code, or last name are crucial to increasing your match rate. In this graph, when we asked respondents which they were more interested in providing, name, age, gender, email address and date of birth ranked near the top. All of these data points are crucial to getting more information for matching. If you ask demographic or product-focused questions, those will apply if they're within the context of your brand.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Customers will give you information if you explain how you will use it to provide a better customer experience. Before you make these data questions part of your acquisition process, test them to see if your customers would have given you that information in the first place. The form completion rate is not a linear line that drops steadily and predictably with each additional question asked. In testing, we have often found that there are thresholds – different for every brand – where drop-off occurs. But, adding questions up to the threshold makes little difference and can add tremendous value to marketers. Don’t be afraid to test adding questions based on the information you need, so long as you take care to make sure the customer understands your need for the information you are requesting.

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Q19: Do you ever read the permissions that apps want in order to be installed?

Apps are everywhere, from travel to social media, to fitness and on into infinity. If you have an interest, there's an app for it.

But, as with email, apps come with a value exchange. Nothing is free, even if the app comes without a charge. Consumers have to figure out what the app developer receives in exchange when they download an app. Few if any developers will publish apps for free because everything comes with a cost.

Your cost, then, isn't necessarily money, but information. Developers want your information – your email address, your name, data on how you use the app, and so on.

The permission statement you (presumably) read before you download an app tells you what information its developer will extract in exchange. This is generally not a negotiation: if you do not agree to the permissions, you cannot use the app. How often do you – meaning you, the marketer who deals with permissions and value exchanges for a living – read these permissions?

What about non-marketers, though? Overall, nearly a two-third majority told us they do read permissions. On the face of it, this is a testament that we as marketers have educated people to ask what they're being asked to give up.

However, when we dig into age differences, we see that older users (73%) are more likely to read the fine print than teens (55%).

We could interpret that as evidence that teens don't expect privacy or don't particularly value it. More likely, it could be that teens just don't understand the concept and implications of privacy yet.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - You don't know how important privacy is until you have your identity stolen (or know people who have), and that's more likely to happen when you're an adult. The fact that 44% of teens don't read app permissions might indicate that they need education to understand why it's important. It's also a perspective that might change as they begin to perceive the implications in the marketplace. Even if you market only to teens, the data suggests that making your app permissions transparent will be important to your marketing efforts and to gaining trust of this major population segment.

Q20: True or False – I don't mind giving up personal information in order to download a free application on my phone or tablet.

Here, 72% of respondents said they do mind giving up personal information in exchange for free apps. In combination with the answers to Q19, in which 65% said they read the terms and conditions before downloading apps, it's clear we're dealing with an educated group of consumers.

This might speak to a breakdown in the perception of the value exchange. If the application does not provide high enough perceived value, or does not clearly require personal information to function, then consumers might well resent the request to give up their information. This is an area to watch as privacy issues gain more attention in the media.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Carefully consider the personal information requested in app permissions to make sure that the request appears to be reasonable (necessary for app functions) and that it has a high perceived value exchange. This is likely to be the best hope to overcome increasing resistance to sharing personal information going forward.

Q21: The chances of my data being involved in a data breach are ...

Data breaches are a fact of everyday life now, from big retailers' store information, to social media, email, credit cards, health records, and other personally-identifiable information. According to the Pew Research Center, 35% of Americans have received a notice that some kind of sensitive data had been compromised (as of May 2016).

So, why aren't more consumers worried about getting hacked? Our question found 45% of consumers agree they stand a good chance of having their data stolen by hackers. That's a sizable section of the population. But what is more surprising is that more than half of respondents either had no opinion or weren't too worried about the prospect.

Teens are the least likely to worry about data breaches. Only 6% think it will happen, compared to Boomers, who are far less sanguine – probably because it has already happened to them.

It is possible that the constant drumbeat of data breach announcements has become so routine that most consumers see these events as just part of the status quo. Multiple surveys from Adestra and others have shown that cybersecurity is simply not a top-of-mind worry for most consumers, despite the reality of data breaches. This paints a complex and somewhat internally inconsistent picture of attitudes toward privacy.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Here's where we see the need most clearly for marketers to take the lead on privacy and security. Your carefree customers might not worry about the data they share, but your more cautious ones will appreciate your willingness to be as transparent as possible in your opt-in and data privacy policies. Write in everyday language, not legalese, and be sure your acquisition and data-use and protection policies reflect the best of both the regulatory and self-regulatory worlds. And, remind everyone from time to time that they can trust you with their data. Someone who just got burned on a credit card hack might appreciate the heads-up.

Q22: Which is more important to you – convenience or privacy?

One out of every four respondents values privacy over convenience. Broken down by age, though, we see a sharp contrast between teens and Millennials as a bloc and their more guarded elders. For teens especially, this is in keeping with other findings that show younger consumers are less concerned about keeping their personal information private.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - The laissez-faire attitude that our study uncovered shows why responsible marketers must get out in front of their customers on data security. It's up to you as the holder of their personal information to explain to them what your security procedures are. If a breach does occur, you must explain how it affects them. Although more than half of consumers don't fret over their data security, the 45% who do, will expect you to be transparent about your data policies – how you protect their data and what you do with it. If you market to teens, explain what data security is all about and what they have to do to be safe. Our finding that 72% of teens don't expect to be part of a data breach, along with the findings from Q19 showing 45% of teens also don't check permissions when downloading apps, make it clear that teens don't understand the concept of data privacy and security yet. As the marketer, it's up to you to not just to be responsible about your data handling and security, but also to educate your audience. This way, you can show that you're doing your part to earn their trust.

Q23: How important is the reputation of the company in your decision to give personally-identifiable information to them over the Internet?

Your brand equity – your reputation – is clearly important to your customers, across all age groups. It's why people give you the information you want and carries over into your customer acquisition. What do you do to sell your customers on giving you the information you really want?

You're asking for the email address (which we know has high perceived value), but what value have you offered to your customers to get their real email addresses?

According to Dennis Dayman, chief privacy officer, ReturnPath, "Email remains the primary ID utilized by individuals to engage with brands and online commerce. Despite email's pervasive nature there is a healthy amount of concern and skepticism regarding the security and privacy of a merchant's collection and use of their email address and associated personally-identifiable information. Marketers need to make it worthwhile."

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Just asking for any old email address and then moving on is cheapening the email channel. No matter what your role in your company is, you're a salesperson. You are selling your email program to your customers and trying to persuade them to buy – that is, to give you their best email addresses. In this light, marketers can communicate that they have a good email program that sends them valuable information, and it's worth their time. If you need to justify doing work to upgrade your retail site, you can tell your bosses that the brand equity your site conveys also carries over to acquisitions.

Q24: Are you willing to provide personal information to web sites so that online advertisements can be targeted to your tastes and interests?

31.5% of all respondents were wiling to give personal info with the remaining 68.5% not willing to.

Q25: Would you be more willing or less willing to provide personal information for online advertising purposes if the website compensated (by non-cash methods) you for your information?

Is it any surprise to find that people are more willing to give you their personal information if you give them something (besides money) for it? That's the value exchange. This reinforces how important it is to be sure your acquisition program emphasizes value.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - Your job as the marketer is to spell out what compensation you're offering in exchange for your customers' best email addresses. Not the old addresses, not the throwaways, but the ones they use for their most important exchanges. People will give you their personal information if they expect to benefit from it.

Q26: How important is it that companies gain your consent when ...

It's clear that customers want transparency with the data they entrust to you, especially when you involve third parties, whether you share your data with them or use their data to build internal profiles. Your customers might not understand what you're doing with that data. But that, again, is your job to explain and be open about.

We've talked about the value exchange that goes into your acquisition program – the value you give your customers in exchange for their personal data. Brand trust is also a key factor, as we just saw in Q23.

Brand equity has trust attached to it. That's why the Target data breach several years ago hurt the company. Customers trusted the company to protect their data, and it didn't. Target is still trying to repair the damage caused by that lack of trust.

TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS - When you think about rapid response in terms of data breaches, you have a fiduciary responsibility to your customers and subscribers to tell them what's going on. If you look at the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other global data laws, you can see they call for more transparency from companies. The GDPR says, in effect, that everything needs consent – and that consent does not include pre-checked boxes on your subscription forms. But it's not just how you collect email addresses. It's how you use that and other data you have on your customers. Ultimately, you must realize that you build trust by being transparent about how you use your customer information and how you notify customers if something goes wrong.


1. Consumers are active inbox managers

Consumers have evolved considerably in how they use email and where email resides in the universe of their communications. Far from being passive consumers of messages, consumers have definite ideas about the kinds of email they value and, more importantly for marketers, how they manage their inboxes to keep the email they don't value. Access to email is also beginning to consolidate. Where email audiences once fractured along the lines of multiple devices and browsers, marketers now have two formats to master: mobile and Gmail.

2. High-value and manageable frequency are key components of text messaging.

Regardless of age or location, consumers want value from all of the brand messaging they receive. This has long been true of email communications and applies to the growing field of text messaging. Consumers who might tolerate high frequency in emails showed definite evidence that they don't extend that tolerance to text messages. High-value and nuanced frequency will go hand in hand toward building positive consumer attitudes on text messaging.

3. Consumers check email all day long but often only in "read only" mode.

Email is a day-long affair. Consumers are in their inboxes from the moment they wake up, all through the day and likely the last thing they do at night. However, this constant checking for email doesn't necessarily imply consumers are in a "buy now" frame of mind. Consumers are also active managers of their inboxes. Marketers who provide clear and transparent unsubscribe processes are seeing those efforts pay off in users who choose to unsubscribe from email they no longer want rather than let it pile up unread or use the "report spam" button to make it go away.

4. Teens value email – on their terms.

Teens do prefer email over other channels for communications from brands as well as day-to-day aspects of their lives, such as school and work notices. But they also have strong ideas about what they want from email and are more likely than others to use a secondary email address for messages they don't value. Marketers should both understand this unwillingness to put up with low-value messages and communicate in appropriate language, whether in email, text, or social messaging in terms teens will appreciate.

5. Marketers must become the champions of customers who have trusted them with personal information.

Trust is a major factor in consumers' decisions about which brands to include in their universes. Marketers must grasp the enormous responsibility they have for their customers' personal information, given the email address' value as an individual identifier across channels and throughout the customer journey. Marketers must not only know, understand, and apply laws and regulations governing data protections and security, but also lead their customers to understand the risks and rewards of sharing personal information and how to protect themselves.

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