Digital marketers have found themselves in a challenging situation in recent times. The success of many digital marketing tactics are dependent on using consumer data. Most consumers are aware of this, and accept it to some extent, but recent events have made consumers and governments more concerned about the ways businesses handle data. A recent survey can help business owners balance their need for data, consumer expectations and the need for transparency.

A national survey by Adlucent revealed that seven out of 10 consumers say they prefer content and ads that are tailored to their personal interests and shopping habits. In fact, nearly half (46 percent) of the survey respondents said that their ideal online experience is having free access to the websites they care most about and only seeing relevant ads. Nearly half (44 percent) of consumers say they are willing to provide personal information in order to get content and ads that are relevant to their personal interests and shopping habits.

"The age of irrelevant advertising is coming to an end, thanks to both increasing consumer demand for personalization, and access to technology and data that makes it possible," said Michael Griffin, founder and CEO of Adlucent. "While consumer expectations around relevancy increase, so do their expectations around data transparency. For today's brands, there's a lot on the line. Fail to deliver, and you will quickly find yourself losing favor and falling behind. But the brands who successfully balance personalization and privacy expectations will be big winners in this next era of digital advertising."

As one would expect, the recent issues with Facebook have affected people's opinion of online ads and personalization, but the effect is not as large as some had predicted. According to Adlucent's survey, four out of five consumers say the recent media coverage about the Facebook Congressional hearings has made them more aware of their digital data. About two out of three (65 percent) of those consumers say their perception of Facebook has been negatively impacted as a result.

"Negatively impacted" doesn't mean that people have given up on sharing information for digital marketing. However, the situation means that transparency is more important than ever. To illustrate this, in the survey, four out of five (80 percent) of consumers are willing to share data with advertisers which is a huge increase from half in 2016. And 72 percent of consumers are willing to share their email address with brands in 2018, which is more than double the 34 percent who would share in 2016.

Despite the potential controversy if data is handled poorly, it's worth it for marketers to use personalized ads. Among the Adlucent findings, 58% of consumers said personalized ads and content improve their perception of a brand. Additionally, consumers are 38 percent more likely to click on an ad for a brand they already know if it's tailored to their preferences and shopping habits. Similarly, consumers are  16% more likely to click on an ad that is tailored to their preferences and shopping habits, even if they're unfamiliar with the brand.

The key to using data in a way consumers approve with is to be transparent. Many people are okay with giving out some personal information, but they need to feel confident that the data won't be abused. In fact, a resounding 96 percent of consumers want brands to be more transparent about their collection and use of personal data, including visibility into what's being collected (80 percent), who is collecting their data (78 percent), and how it's being used (77 percent).

In the end, business owners and marketers will need to use data from consumers to provide the best shopping and ad experience for consumers. Making sure to handle data properly and a making it clear to customers how data will be used can help build relationships that last for years.

For more recent research that can help business owners and marketers, read this article on recent changes to Facebook related to the transparency of political ads.