Many perceive increasing privacy concerns as a threat to the growth of online advertising, as it becomes easier for customers to opt-out of behavioral advertising.  Behavioral targeting is only as effective as its reach – a factor now determined by how many visitors actively allow you to communicate to them.  Customers should feel like they’re getting something out it!  Behavioral targeting initiatives should be created as mutually beneficial interactions which offer and clearly communicate tangible benefits to customers.

Managing this perception is imperative to a successful behavioral targeting program.  Companies such as NetFlix and Amazon.com have done a good job at communicating the benefits of opt-in behavioral tracking such that consumers perceive the initiative not as intrusive, but rather, as a means to an enhanced, more customized user experience.  To create this perception, Anil Batra’s blog gives 5 steps to ease customers’ behavioral targeting woes.

A key component: instilling trust in the consumer.  That all information be opt-in is baseline in any behavioral targeting initiative, and having this feature be communicated to your audience is necessary but not sufficient in legitimizing your “intrusion”.  Trust in this context goes beyond a consumer knowing you are using solely information they willingly supplied, it extends to how they believe this data is being used.  Corporate cynicism and “what’s in it for me?” go together on this one, and you can address their potential distrust by providing them a compelling reason why they benefit from passively giving you some cookies.

The technical side of behavioral targeting should also be explained to increase customer goodwill.  Active Response CEO Brad Powers relates in his interview that in his experience “online marketers try very hard not to be intrusive. […]  Marketers have data strung together at best from anonymous cookies.”  Personal information is actually much more abundant offline, where databases carry extensive non-encoded data which includes everything from your phone number to your signature.

The solution: your behavioral targeting program should offer benefits to your customers and these benefits should be clearly communicated in such a way that instills a feeling of trust.  Also, educating your visitors on behavioral targeting technology in general is key such that the growth of Internet advertising isn’t hampered by the privacy hype.

georgina.taylor

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