Hands Off Our Data: Shifting Consumer Attitudes

This post is a part of AMT-Lab's Second Sunday Survey Series. For previous installments, check out these articles here, here, here, and here.

The collection and analysis of consumer data is a practice that grows more ubiquitous and complex everyday. Both non-profit arts organizations and large international corporations are using data in new ways to target, acquire, and convert more customers. However, the dangers of mass data collection are self-apparent, and it appears that consumers might be reaching a tipping point when it comes to companies using their personal information. New evidence from the Pew Research Center suggests that growing numbers of consumers are often confused, impatient, and discouraged when it comes to how companies use their data.

According to this survey of 461 adults, and several other recent surveys, 91% of adults believe that they have “lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies.” The most recent Pew report finds that these consumer qualms do not vary much between demographics—male, female, rich, and poor consumers are all becoming more aware and worried about the potential uses of their information.

In some cases, data solicitation practices deter consumers from using a service or buying a product. Other consumers have deemed the risk of providing personal information to be worth the perceived value of goods and services, while others have resorted to providing false information to companies! Though many respondents in this survey indicate that they have not felt discouraged, confused or impatient in regards to companies using their data, the negative associations with data solicitation are growing.

These findings are extremely relevant to arts managers. For years there has been a gradual movement towards applying data-driven decision-making processes (usually found in for profit enterprises) to the field. These practices lean on complex CRM systems, as well as information garnered from polls and list shares between organizations. However, institutions must be careful so as to not alienate potential consumers by asking for their personal information.

It is important that arts organizations are upfront and transparent when it comes to how they use their patrons’ data. This is particularly true for organizations that conduct transactions online. Consumers need assurance that their financial information is safe.

Furthermore, consumers only want to provide the bare minimum of data necessary for transactions to take place. With this in mind, perhaps organizations that conduct rigorous audience surveys or who require a robust set of data for online transactions should consider scaling back their data solicitation techniques. Though every institution needs to find its own balance, this survey demonstrates the fact that the relationship between data collection and the willingness of consumers to conduct transactions is tenuous.

To see the results from this survey, as well as other relevant surveys, visit the Pew’s website here.


Banner image by W. Rebel, licensed under Creative Commons