Industry fears ‘track and trace’ hit but green shoots rise

covid_2Data and marketing professionals are growing increasingly concerned over the negative impact the UK Government’s “test, track and trace” programme could have on consumers’ willingness to share personal data in the future, but it is not all doom and gloom, with a significant number of businesses reporting the emergence of the green shoots of recovery.

That is the conclusion of the DMA’s latest, and third, “Coronavirus – The Impact on Business Survey”, which exposes the key concerns, challenges and needs of businesses sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The findings reveal that over two-fifths (42%) of professionals are concerned about the negative impact the “test, track and trace” programme will have on the industry.

According to the research, many are concerned about the impact the Government’s strategy could have on long-term consumer trust – specifically trust in how institutions (59%) and brands (43%) use personal data. Although a third (32%) believe this could become a positive outcome if handled correctly.

Half (49%) of all those quizzed for the DMA’s previous “Data Privacy: An Industry Perspective” report believe consumer trust in how brands handle their data has improved since GDPR came into force in May 2018.

However, if consumer concerns around data protection and privacy increase as a result of the Government’s strategy, it could have severe implications for the data and marketing industry and the wider digital economy, the industry body claims.

A number of privacy organisations, including the Open Rights Group, have claimed the scheme is in breach of GDPR. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Government refutes this but the UK Information Commissioner’s Office has been unusually quiet on the subject.

DMA chief executive Chris Combemale said: “Data exchange is essential to the smooth running of the modern digital market, which contributes around £150bn to the UK economy, according to DCMS estimates.

“Businesses rely on consumer trust and a willingness to share data in order to build sustainable and rewarding relationships with their customers.

“The long-term effects of the “Test, track and trace” programme on customer trust and public perception could have lasting damage on the data and marketing industry if it is mismanaged. This is a big concern for a large number of businesses.”

Meanwhile, the findings also reveal that many are still concerned about the impact of coronavirus on their business, with those who say there are “very concerned” rising from 24% in April to 33% in May. Although those saying they are not concerned or neutral also rose from 17% to 26% over the same period.

Businesses estimate their revenues have been halved amid the lockdown (52.8% in May), with an increasing number expecting to (or having already) had to make permanent staff redundant (27%) or furlough them.

However, the number of firms who estimate they are operating “business as usual” has seen the first increase since the DMA research series began; rising from 56.9% in April to 64.6% this past month, the first early signs of improvement.

Combemale continued: “Our latest barometer of businesses during this unprecedented situation shows that we are definitely moving to a different phase. The impact of the pandemic on organisations’ revenues has been dramatic, causing concerns to remain high too.

“The overall picture is mixed and one of transition, with people starting to return to workplaces and the early signs of some return to business as usual. As restrictions continue to be lifted in the UK, businesses must ensure they continue to put people first – both their customers and employees alike.”

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