Getting something for nothing

Eric offers the advice

Don’t expect something for nothing.

What are surfers willing to do to get personalized content?

In May, ChoiceStream did an email survey of 923 U.S. online adults, and found that consumers want personalized content, but they are wary of using methods like click tracking to inform the personalization. Not only that, but they are less willing to provide information or allow tracking than they were a year ago:
Choicestream Personalization Survey

Not too encouraging. And if 68% of visitors are opposed to using click and purchase tracking in order to provide what many people actually want — personalization — is it any wonder that they don’t see the value in cookies?

Getting something for nothing

Who Are You? was recently told

I looked at your ‘about’ page. it’s more about what you do than who you are.

Fair enough, and a good observation. But how does one define who one is? I’m thinking specifically about web analytics and user tracking. We want to provide compelling content (or products, services, etc) that engage users. The best way to do that is to know who they are.

Traditionally, web sites have used several means for determining who you are, including

  • demo- or biographical – age, gender, income, education, etc.
  • attitudinal – what do you think? do you like hockey?
  • geographical – where do you live? work? travel to?
  • behavioral – What do you read? What do you buy? When do you do it?

Of course there are also random factoids, like “what’s your favorite swear word?” Sometimes the answers are insightful, sometimes entertaining, but usually they are of little value.

Back at Accrue, customers and prospects used to ask me if I had recommendations for survey tools, and how to combine log data with registration data, because without them they couldn’t “personalize” the experience for the visitor. At first I was baffled by this, and used to tell a (fictitious) story:

I go to the same coffee shop every morning, and have been doing so for six months. I order roughly the same thing every day. I know the first names of the three servers, and they know my first name, and what I like.

When I go to the coffee shop, they recognize me, they treat me like a valued customer, and they anticipate my desires based on my previous behavior. They never asked me how, and they certainly didn’t follow me around to see where I lived or worked. They just paid attention.

Here’s the thing. What you do is more observable, more accurate, and more informative than your answers to a registration or survey form. If you’ve ever heard the phrases “do what you say you will do” or “actions speak louder than words” then you know what I’m talking about. And yet I see registration forms on web sites when there’s no good reason to have them. My guess for these are three-fold:

  1. Some of these web sites are run by folks that have come from the offline media, where behavioral tracking is impossible, so they don’t think about it.
  2. Some of these web sites don’t have useful behavioral tracking, so are trying to make up for it by asking you tons of demographic questions.
  3. Some of these web sites have wonderful tracking, but no way to act on the data they collect. In short, they can’t personalize, or target, based on behavioral data.

Of course getting things in balance is key. I buy everything with one credit card. But if my credit card company started sending me very personalized offers based on my behavior, I might get freaked out about the privacy implications, and start using other credit cards, or paying with cash. So I want you to pay attention, but not too much.

Who Are You?

Hooked on Banking

Fish hooks - Dan Jaeger -
According to Gartner’s June 23 press release discussing their phishing report:

Approximately 77 percent of online Americans shopped online in the 12 months ended in May 2005, according to Gartner. An estimated 73 percent of respondents regularly logged on to banking accounts and 63 percent paid bills online.

Amazing stats, eh? Much higher than I’d have thought. I’ll assume that “online Americans” really means “online American adults” as I can’t imagine 73% of 10-year olds checking their banking accounts. Then again, kids are pretty up on things…

Hooked on Banking

Would Dr. Atkins Delete Cookies?

I haven’t seen it discussed anywhere, but Jupiter did a follow-up survey to their report on cookie deletion. The goal was to give some context around the profile of the cookie deleter. While the summary from the report is that the longer you’ve been on-line, the more likely you are to delete cookies, there’s a table in the report that clearly shows a need for education on cookies:
Jupiter Cookie Deleter Demographic Survey
The trend that emerges indicates that older you are (in years, not in tenure on-line), the more you pay attention to stories about cookies, and the more you consider cookies an invasion of privacy. Coincidence? I doubt it. I think the doom and gloom reporting by the popular media actually feeds this. (Also note the general trend that while older Web users pay more attention to the stories, they report a lower understanding of how cookies work and what they are good for).

The education/advocacy sounds like something Safecount is up to.

Source: Jupiter Research Concept Report

Would Dr. Atkins Delete Cookies?

The Business Case for Privacy

Forrester released the results of a survey in an report called What’s On Web Analytics Users’ Minds? The report mirrors a lot of the issues we see here at Yahoo! (instrumentation concerns, multiple sources of “truth”, no silver bullet for counting users) but there’s one sentence that jumped out at me – this was regarding privacy concerns:

One-third of online consumers say they’d purchase more over the Internet if they didn’t feel that their privacy was being compromised.

If ever there was a reason to get in front of the online industry’s privacy issues, it’s not the PR value — it’s the economic benefit! It’s one thing to say “we collect information about you” but it’s another to put policies and systems in place that ensure enforcement of data security and engender trust in the marketplace.

I have a feeling that the privacy breaches we’re reading about (and the ones we’re not reading about!) are going to hit fever pitch, and the subsequent government reaction will result in business burdens that at least mirror or even surpass that of Sarbanes-Oxley. Like SOX, it will mean rebuilding our systems. A whole new privacy compliance industry will emerge. I doubt we can do much about it, except to prepare for it. Meanwhile — if raising the level of trust in the marketplace will result in increased sales … why not start now?

The Business Case for Privacy

Getting Over It

Last week I got a letter from a health clinic that I used maybe five years ago. The letter said some of their PCs were stolen out of their office, and on those PCs were the electronic records of their patients, including mine. They also sent a photocopy of the police report, for reasons I don’t understand.

On Monday, DSW (the discount shoe store) said that transaction information on about 1.4 million credit cards was stolen. Because the transaction logs just had name, credit card number, and amount, they didn’t have any easy way to contact the people whose credit card numbers were obtained (although they did contact the credit card vendors). But given the list of stores and the dates of the logs, I know my credit card number was among the ones obtained.

How long must we be diligent, checking our credit cards for fraud, checking our credit history? Years.

Just this past week, I discovered ZabaSearch, a free site for looking up information about people. Where they used to live, when they were born, their phone numbers — all right there. And background checks for $5. How convenient.

I wonder where this will end. Will there be a backlash against acquiring information, new regulations on handling it, more use of one-time identifiers (like virtual credit cards), more use of things like P.O. boxes, etc? Or will people just warm to the idea that we no longer have any privacy? Or, in the words of Sun CEO Scott McNealy, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it”?

Getting Over It