LONDON: Marketers consistently underestimate the level of consumer concern regarding the (mis)use of their contact details and the unauthorised distribution of such information to third parties, new research has found.

The Annual Marketing-GAP Tracker from fast.Map, the online market research agency, took a particular interest in this issue ahead of impending European Union legislation that plans to make consumers opt in to marketing contact, rather than the current opt-out approach.

Most consumers "don't bother to even read the opt-out box", said the report, as it warned that new laws "could spell instant death to third-party data collection companies and an end to prospect-driven direct marketing".

Based on the responses of two panels – 1,180 consumers and 310 marketers – fast.Map found that executives "underestimate by up to 100% all consumers' areas of concern".

For example, 85% of consumers said they would be concerned or very concerned if their details were passed to another organisation but only 45% of marketers thought shoppers might see this as a problem.

In a similar vein, 83% of consumers would be worried if an organisation did not keep the promises they had made in their permission statement. And, again, fully 45% of marketers failed to appreciate the depth of consumer feeling on the matter.

In fact, the research showed that only 6% of people would opt in to receive marketing messages from all the companies that currently contact them, although 19% of marketers thought they would.

And consumers also increasingly expect something in return for receiving this messaging – discounts, special offers and samples were all persuasive benefits that marketers undervalued.

"This is the new battleground of marketing," David Cole, fast.MAP managing director, told Marketing Week. "There will be a huge growth in compliance and helping marketers gain consent."

He added that marketers would have to deploy skills of "analysis, copywriting and creativity to engage people on that new battleground".

And he warned against "weak-willed marketers" delegating the copywriting to lawyers, as this would simply result in databases being decimated.

Data sourced from fast.MAP, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff