October 24, 2013, 3:21 PM

Do online shoppers care about privacy?

Older consumers do. The young read privacy statements, but don’t worry about privacy.

Amazon’s Privacy Statement and Terms of Use run about 6,200 words—that’s about 14 single-spaced pages.  To make a purchase on Amazon.com, you are not required to read these terms, but you are required to agree to them.

 Amazon is by no means unique in this area—all e-commerce sites include acceptance of terms and conditions as part of doing business.  The question is: Do consumers understand what they are agreeing to?  Moreover, do they care?

 Etailing Solutions recently conducted a survey of 176 online shoppers to better understand consumer attitudes about privacy and online shopping.  Here are some key takeaways:

  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents (70%) seldom or never read  

           privacy statements on websites where they shop.

  • Of the respondents that did read privacy statements, most tended to be aged 18-24 (Millennial generation)
  • Respondents aged 18-54 were fairly accepting of marketers using their personal information to provide discounts on goods and services they might be interested in purchasing.
  • Respondents 55 and over (Baby Boomers) were strongly opposed to letting marketers use their personal information.

 Some of these findings make sense. Digital-from-birth Millennials are understandably comfortable with the idea of sharing personal information.  After all, they are the ones whose fondness for living in public have made Facebook and Twitter household names. 

 Conversely, Baby Boomers who have been around long before WWW and “@” were commonplace might be a bit skeptical of marketers that claim to be collecting personal information in order to “provide a more relevant shopping experience.” Boomers have enough real-world experience to understand how the lack of vigilance over their personal information can lead to credit card fraud, identity theft and a host of other really nasty experiences.

 What is as interesting as it is concerning is that the strong privacy sentiments of Boomers does not necessarily translate into action.   (Wasn’t this the group that railed against apathy in the 60’s?)  This group should be savvy enough to understand what is at stake.  But for many, the debate about whether or not marketers should be able to use personal data is akin to whether or not there is life on Mars: Everyone has an opinion, but few actually take any action as a result of that opinion.

 So for now, the majority of consumers rely on the hope that marketers will go about their business carefully and ethically. It makes me wonder if I am the only person who took the time to read Google’s comment at the end of its Terms of Service Update:

 “Thank you for making it to the end of this page – we know this stuff can be dry, but we think it is important.”

Etailing Solutions is an e-commerce consultancy dedicated to helping its brand partners understand, navigate and lead in the global online retail marketplace.  The company is headquartered in Westport, Connecticut, and has offices in Boston, Las Vegas, and Seattle.



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