Lucy Handley

Figures to be published tomorrow will reveal that people trust retailers with their personal information significantly less than they used to.

While supermarkets and high street chains are faring best in the research by the The Data Agency, the figures are still pretty shocking. Just over a third of people agree that their information is kept safe by supermarkets and 28 per say the same of high street chains – suggesting that the vast majority of shoppers do not trust them.

The full research will be revealed on Wednesday (28 August) but suffice to say that if what people are saying is true, retailers still need to do a job of reassurance in terms of how consumers’ data is kept safe and use it only for the most relevant marketing.

This could be a classic case of people claiming one thing then doing another, since Tesco’s Clubcard in particular is one of the biggest schemes with upwards of 15 million members, all giving their data to Tesco on a daily basis.

Yet I think this lack of trust is a sign of things to come. As the amount of information we give to companies increases along with the means to collect it, brands must be careful. Simply putting themselves in the shoes of the consumer (or being ‘customer centric’ – the phrase that a thousand brands claim to be) will help.

This is especially important when targeting people through digital means. Mark Roy, chair of the DMA’s data council says that to send ‘bad and irrelevant marketing’ has potentially become more attractive to brands during the recession because it is cheaper than targeted direct mail, for example.

There is a delicate balance between using data for targeting people and being creepy. The last few months alone have seen Nando’s, RBS, NatWest, Weve and Time Out launch or revamp their loyalty schemes and data collection is only going to increase for the foreseeable future.

But the brands that win will be those that manage to gain people’s trust while helping them understand what information they are collecting and what for.