Retailers need to find ways to improve the online shopping experience without ringing the privacy alarm bells according to Frank Lord, VP EMEA at ATG.
The task today is one of finding a balance between safe guarding the privacy rights of the consumer, while providing a tailored experience online.
The importance of personalisation
The retailers that do well, especially in the current climate, are those that can target their customer base with the right offer at the right time. There’s no point offering someone a pair of jeans if what they’re really looking for is a handbag. In the same way a sales assistant will approach a customer in a shop, the same must happen online and here cookies from any given website can be used to re-create a similar experience. The difference is that if it’s done in a truly personalised way, your cookies will only be used by the company you’re dealing with there and then.
If you’re searching for household cleaning products on Monday and revisit the same site the following Wednesday to look conduct your weekly grocery shop, you will not be bombarded with pictures of household cleaning products. It is this focus on personalisation that will be instrumental in moving away from the cookie and privacy debate and putting consumers’ minds at ease.
A shift in thinking
If you walk into a shop with a red handbag it is only logical to think that a sales assistant might then ask if you are interested in their latest collection of red scarves. So how can we replicate a seemingly harmless approach to customer service online, without ringing the privacy alarm bells?
Perhaps one approach is encouraging the governing legislation to focus on educating consumers about how data is collected and used and then encourage trust between the retailer and the consumer. It’s impractical and tedious for consumers to confirm every single cookie placed on their computer and it could potentially lead to a permanent disruption of their internet experience.
Instead, consumers need to be told what they are opting-in for and told how they can opt out if they no longer want to be a part of it. It’s all about giving the consumer a choice; whether it’s declining the offer of assistance in a shop or opting out of cookies online.
Call to action
Behavioural advertising is a contentious area. On the one hand businesses are vying for access to all data about their users’ behaviour online, while on the other there are those who contend that the information stored in cookies must be treated as if were another form of “personal” data.
Granted cookie legislation is necessary. After all, when we go to the supermarket, we are not followed around the store by customer service representatives taking notes of the routes we take and the products we buy, so to do the same online could be seen as a little extreme.
However, the legislation should not be so rigid that it detracts from the advantages it offers in terms of creating a more personalised experience. Instead it is a question of appropriate use from the retailer and the advertiser, provided they can justify the benefits that the consumer gets out of it.
Moreover, cookies have been – and still continue to be – an essential part of developing new ways of reaching consumers through tailored internet-based content and new opportunities in matching advertising based on potential interests.
Against this backdrop, the onus is on educating the market on how cookies can be used in a responsible way and encouraging retailers to re-evaluate the way customer data is used, to ensure the whole customer experience is enriched online. Now that we have the technology in place to allow retailers to do this, it’s time for retailers to explore ways to make this happen.
By Frank Lord