MONTREAL: Search engines and social media are among the organisations that consumers trust least with their personal data, while banks and supermarkets are most trusted according to a new study.

The international Aimia Loyalty Lens report, from the eponymous loyalty management company, surveyed 24,335 respondents in 10 countries – the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, the US, Australia, India, and the Middle East – asking them to rank ten types of businesses by the degree to which they were comfortable with their handling of personal data.

Banks were easily the most trusted in this regard, as 82% of respondents put these institutions into their top four. The others featured in the top echelon were supermarkets (64%), mobile phone providers (56%) and respondents' places of work (50 per cent).

At the other end of the scale two thirds (65%) of consumers placed online search engines in the bottom two of institutions they trusted, while 58% consumers had social networks there.

With so many businesses across all verticals collecting consumer data, David Johnston, COO, Aimia, noted that "transparency about how data is being collected and used will become a key differentiator for businesses going forward".

"Those that are clear and offer a better customer experience by how they use that information will build greater trust and loyalty," he added.

More than half of shoppers internationally (55%) were willing to share personal information with companies in exchange for relevant rewards, but that varied widely in individual markets. 

Thus, for example, 74% of respondents from India were ready to provide these details, but Germans were far more cautious, with just 39% prepared to do so. Germans, in fact, valued their personal information most among the countries surveyed, at 36% against an international average of 29%.

Even while consumers generally are keen on rewards, brands need to tread cautiously and understand the nuances of each market. Two thirds of Canadians, for example, were put off by supermarkets that send coupons to their mobile phones, while 52% of respondents in India were quite comfortable with that practice.

Similarly, there were significant differences in attitudes towards supermarkets following up by phone or email after consumers had made a purchase. More than half (57%) of Americans saw the follow-up gesture as going too far, compared to only one in three (34%) of those in the Middle East.

Data sourced from PPR Newswire; additional content by Warc staff