Sunday, 15 September 2013

Is opt-in simply a cop-out?


When marketers talk about wider customer interactions they tend to focus on language about consumers "opting in” – letting consumers choose to tell you about their interactions, transactions and viewing habits in exchange for rewards – typically framed as “exclusive” discounts or some other carrot.

Indeed, in many markets the process of opting in is regulated, requiring the consumer to provide their consent to receive ongoing marketing communications from a company.

There are a number of new companies trying to make the process of opting in and sharing data completely transparent. Handshake for example lets you setup your personal data and then negotiate with companies that want to buy it. They say:-

“Through Handshake you’ll be able to see exactly what brands want to talk to you, what they want to talk about and how much they will pay you for that conversation”

In reality though, the majority of consumers don’t see their data in that way – they don’t even see data. In the consumers language it’s about different services being able to understand each other.

For example:-

  • When a consumer is tracking calories they just wish that the products they bought at a store today were available for selection within their trusted calorie tracking application.
  • When a consumer checks-in on Foursquare or browses for nearby restaurants, they are not necessarily looking for a deal, they are looking for somewhere nice to eat, somewhere that others rate, somewhere close by.
  • When a consumer searches for a product on Google, they are not looking for an advert – they don’t want to “opt-in”. They are looking for a product. If an advert shows up based on their search criteria, previous search history, previous purchase history and this is an exact match, then the consumer is happy.

The consumer isn’t looking to opt-in, they want utility.

They want things to work together seamlessly, they want intelligent decisions to be made using their data; they want to reduce friction in future interactions; they want it to be relevant both in terms of content and transactions.

So this presents a challenge in that to be where the consumer is – to be aware of their search activity online or the check-in activity offline – we need the consumer to create relationships.

Note I didn’t say “opt-in”.

Consumers think in terms of things relating. If this service knew about that service then that would be useful.

We do this in real-life all the time when we make new acquaintances and friends. We may not actively think about the useful connections this new friend may provide, but we see synergies and we understand that things just work better when we establish more relationships.

Framing the language around interactions as creating new relationships or new connections is a much more positive language than opting in. It suggests that we see this connection as two-way – we both get value. It suggests that we may not yet know all the value we may be able to get from this relationship, but we can see there is value there.

Sure, we do actually have to get permission from the consumer, but this should be based on transparency, both in terms of what we want and why we want it.  Facebook for example, when speaking about Facebook Connect which essentially provides 3rd parties with access to a members Facebook details and interactions says:-

Facebook Login makes it easy to connect with people [and] functions as a trusted link between you, people using your app and their data.  The only way for an app to gain access to any of this is to transparently request each relevant permission from the person [with] each permission clearly explained to people [so they can] make the decision about whether to grant the app access

Notice they speak about connecting with people, providing access, giving permission and most of all, about trust - it's not opting in.

The aim then for marketers is not to try and simply get opt-in but instead to create more and more opportunities to make these relationships based on trust and permission and to provide useful services and utility value from them.