The Price of Anonymity: How Permission-Based Personalization Can Address Missed Opportunities

Yahoo recently discontinued support for Do Not Track browser settings in light of its mission to create a more personalized web experience for consumers.

This sudden update illustrates the trend toward delivering user experiences that are tailored to a user’s personal preferences. As an early supporter of Do Not Track, Yahoo has had plenty of time to evaluate whether or not anonymity is better for the user, ultimately deciding that a personalized user experience is superior. But truly delivering a valuable personalized experience is more than simply a matter of browser settings and conventions.

Brands must commit to collecting and managing customer information responsibly, which means being transparent and asking for permission. We see social login as the best method for doing this by allowing visitors to register for and sign in to your website or app through their existing social profiles, while honoring their choices about data sharing and privacy.

To help you see the value of personalization, we’ve highlighted three opportunities your business is missing out on by not understanding who your users really are, and how to build permission-based experiences that benefit both brands and consumers.

Missed Opportunity #1: Connecting the Dots Across Devices

Anonymity tricks marketers into throwing good money away with irrelevant messaging—as anybody who has ever let his 14-year old cousin borrow his iPad can quickly attest. You’re probably not interested in One Direction and the Kardashian Kollection, but you can bet you’ll be seeing them in paid search results for the next few weeks, as brands relying on 3rd-party tracking cookies attempt to reach you based on ”your” browsing habits.

Permission-based access to individual consumer identity eliminates anonymous, “blast” messaging, significantly cutting conversion costs for brands by helping them reach the right customers regardless of channel or device. It also creates a better web experience for your customers by nurturing them with relevant and timely messaging that lets them know that you see them as much more than their recent browsing history.

Tip: Avoid waiting until the point of transaction to authenticate user identity, and be strategic about the data points you ask users to share. Request info that will enable you to customize the user experience, whether it’s by greeting a user by name, acknowledging her birthday or providing her with tailored discounts.

Missed Opportunity #2: Hosting an Authentic Community

Turning unknown site visitors into known customers also improves the quality of user interaction on your site or or app. Without having to take responsibility for the content they are creating, anonymous users are notorious for leaving irrelevant comments, sharing inappropriate content and leaving nonsensical reviews.

The ability to tie user-generated content to a personal profile not only holds users accountable for the content they post, but it also develops a community built around authenticity and high quality feedback loops. Furthermore, allowing users to authenticate with a social account also enables you to tailor your website or app with content that is relevant to an individual’s interests and demographics.

For Example…
As one of the largest publications in the US, New York Daily News receives hundreds of user comments each day. To combat spam and encourage authentic conversations, NYDN prompts users to verify their identities prior to posting.

Missed Opportunity #3: Improving Customer Loyalty and Retention

What customer doesn’t appreciate being recognized and rewarded for her business? Without the ability to tie shopping cart conversions and other valuable user behaviors to a known identity, businesses lose the insight needed to nurture long-term customer relationships and retention. Seeing as repeat shoppers in the United States represent just 8% of all site visitors but account for over 40% of total online sales (PracticalEcommerce), this is a problem.

Establishing user identity opens the door for brands to create incentives for customers to keep coming back through interactive reward systems and loyalty programs like gamification. The ability to earn exclusive rewards for taking desired actions makes customers feel recognized and valued while creating a sticky user experience that builds brand loyalty over time.

Tip: Encourage authentication by letting users know the long-term benefits and rewards up front. Start by awarding users points for taking simple, everyday actions like logging in or favoriting an item to build engagement and drive ongoing participation.

To learn more about the price of anonymity and how to take a permission-based approach to consumer data collection and application, download our free white paper, 3 Ways Online Anonymity Hurts Business and Consumers.

Download our Anonymity White Paper

By Kevin White