First posted on Companies Digest.

Wide ranging survey into email and privacy preferences finds vast majority favour the ability to decide tracking on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.

Survey of 1,000 UK adults finds that 57% report online privacy concerns have risen in importance during the pandemic – now a major issue for 96% of respondents.

Growing awareness of online privacy controls with 67% reporting basic understanding of GDPR, 51% reading cookie notifications more closely, with 40% responding that this is new behaviour over the past three years, and 31% blocking most or all cookies (double the number from three years ago), and 86% unsubscribing from irrelevant marketing emails.

Email is still the supreme comms channel with 63% reporting it as their preferred channel – direct mail second on 14%. However, 58% say they receive too many emails.

54% report little or no concern in the use of tracking pixels in emails with 65% reporting personalised offers and recommendations, their favourite function of marketing communications. 61% report understanding of tracking pixels role in personalising content and monitoring effectiveness.

London, UK; 6th August 2021: Research by data science company Profusion has revealed that 71% of adults would prefer personal control over whether to enable tracking pixels on emails rather than the blanket ban which will come into force on Apple devices in the autumn.

The finding is in line with a general trend towards people exercising greater control over their online privacy. A significant majority of people surveyed reported an understanding of GDPR, reading cookie notifications and modifying their access according to preference and unsubscribing from emails.

The research also highlighted the complex relationship people have with privacy in email communications. When asked to rank what they disliked about emails, the number one complaint was that they were ‘too frequent’ (58%) followed by ‘not personalised’ (39%) and generic (27%). However, when asked if they would accept more generic emails to protect their privacy 63% said definitely yes. In relation to tracking pixels – 61% of respondents understood their purpose in personalisation and monitoring open rates – and 54% reported having no issue with them being used.

Profusion believes these results indicate consumers accept limited monitoring if they are in control and if it is in the context of a clearly understood value exchange. In this instance, exchanging data on email behaviour for personalised offers and content.

Worryingly for marketers, 41% respondents say they believe they have never received an immediately relevant personalised offer in an email and 48% believe they have never received dynamic content and 41% rarely or never engage with marketing emails. 67% reported a dislike for retargeting ads and 43% believe social listening is a violation of their privacy.

Natalie Cramp, CEO of data science company Profusion, said: “Our research shows that the online privacy debate is becoming more nuanced. It is not as simple as saying more privacy is always popular. What people want is greater control. They want to better choose who they give their data to if it means a better service. The tracking pixel ban showcases this position. Many consumers love personalised emails and understand the trade off in giving some data to companies to make this happen. As a result, they don’t want a blanket ban but instead want to be able to tailor access on a case by case basis.

“This preference for personalisation does not extend to online advertising – a significant majority of people are put off  by retargeting. The lesson for marketers is that context and consent are crucial elements in how you personalise your messages. Giving your customers a clear and informed choice will get the best results. This means educating them on how their data is used and showcasing the benefits. Our results also highlight not only how important email as a channel is, but how much work marketers still have to do on getting this right – perhaps if we were we wouldn’t be facing blanket bans.”

The survey was conducted between 14-16th July 2021 in association with Alligator Digital.

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