LONDON: Although there is evidence that consumers are more willing to exchange personal data and are more aware of its value, it is vital that brands retain their trust, a new report has argued.

Trust is by far the most important consideration for consumers when deciding whether to share their information and brands will not grow without winning it, according to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Working with analytics firm Acxiom and the Future Foundation, a consumer trends research firm, the DMA received responses from 1,000 UK consumers.

A full 39% rank trust in an organisation as their top consideration, a far higher proportion than freebies (10%) or discounted offers (6%).

While the report is the latest in a long line of surveys that have emphasised the importance of trust for effective brand engagement, the DMA survey also suggests consumers have become more accustomed to data-sharing. It seems they have become savvy about its value, too.

The proportion of consumers who expect to exchange information when making a purchase has risen to 73% from 65% in 2012 while more than half (55%) accept that the exchange of data can make free products available.

Of particular note for brands, the report identified a growing "consumer capitalist" mindset whereby consumers have an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the value of their data.

Those who see their data as their own to trade has increased from 40% to 52% over the past three years, which suggests consumers may be open to offers from brands while they also seek to secure a good deal.

Chris Combemale, CEO of the DMA, said these shifts in attitude suggest consumers are more interested in creating "a progressive culture of data exchange".

"Brands need to capitalise on these positive trends and take the lead by nurturing the growing pragmatism and helping create a culture of data exchange that will benefit all," he said.

"Without trust, brands will not grow. They must look at the way they deal with consumers and their data, and take their privacy concerns seriously."

Data sourced from DMA; additional content by Warc staff