How to Avoid the ‘Creepy Factor’ in Mobile

Protecting the consumer protects the opportunity. When brands, publishers and agencies use that axiom to guide their mobile marketing strategies, they can avoid alienating consumers — or worse, having a law nicknamed after their company.

Mobile users are particularly sensitive about how marketers use their location information. That’s because mobile phones are highly personal devices that people carry with them at all times. This habit also makes the mobile channel an effective way for brands and publishers to reach consumers at opportune times, such as when they’re near a merchant that’s offering a deal and thus literally in a position to take advantage of it.

Research shows that most mobile users not only understand the concept of location-based services but use them on a regular basis. In a recent Pew Internet survey of smartphone users, 74 percent already use their phone to get location-based information, and 18 percent use geosocial services such as Foursquare. Mobile Marketing Association research shows that U.S. consumers are far more likely to respond to location-based ads than ones featured in text messages or on websites.

Campaigns should use plain language to explain how consumers can opt in. There are two main types of permissions: explicit, such as providing a pop-up button to approve a specific location request, and implicit, such as subscribing to a service whose terms clearly state that it includes using location information. For example, a car dealer’s website could invite visitors to submit their mobile number so they can receive alerts about sales on certain vehicles whenever they’re within a mile of the dealership.

For online opt-in, a form shouldn’t contain pre‐checked boxes agreeing to share location information. Instead, the opt-in process should require users to check those boxes as an act of explicit permission.

For mobile opt-in, a double opt-in option is best. This requires a campaign to solicit consent when a consumer subscribes to a location-based service, and again when the campaign requires its first location fix. Campaigns should specify how location information will be used, disclosed and protected so users can make informed decisions about whether to opt in. This information shouldn’t be buried in a lengthy privacy policy or a cryptic uniform licensing agreement.

Campaign strategies evolve over time. If that means location information will be used differently than at the time of opt-in, alert existing participants about the change and then wait for each one’s consent before making that change to their account. Examples include sharing location information with a business partner or storing location histories instead of using the information and then immediately deleting it.

Participants shouldn’t have to hunt for instructions about how to opt out. Making that information prominent and clear also saves support costs because users aren’t calling or emailing for those instructions.

No matter how clear and prominent the campaign’s policies were at opt-in, it’s still a good idea to send periodic reminders such as how to opt out, how the information is being used and where to get the full policy. The frequency depends on factors such as how the information is used. For example, if it’s shared with third parties, more frequent reminders — say, once a month — are advisable. Whatever the schedule, this kind of proactive outreach fosters a sense that the brand respects consumer privacy and helps maintain the trust that’s key for successful location-based campaigns.

When brands publishers and agencies protect consumer privacy, they’re doing more than just improving the chances that their campaign will be successful. They’re also doing their part to protect the mobile marketing opportunity for the industry as a whole. When they don’t, two things are likely: consumers shunning location-based mobile campaigns, and heavy-handed legislation such as the 2012 Mobile Device Privacy Act. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Rip Gerber is CEO of Locaid Technologies, a provider of location-based services.

More in Media

Meta AI rolls out several enhancements across apps and websites with its newest Llama 3

Meta AI, which first debuted in September, also got a number of updates including ways to search for real-time information through integrations with Google and Bing.

Walmart rolls out a self-serve, supplier-driven insights connector

The retail giant paired its insights unit Luminate with Walmart Connect to help suppliers optimize for customer consumption, just in time for the holidays, explained the company’s CRO Seth Dallaire.

Research Briefing: BuzzFeed pivots business to AI media and tech as publishers increase use of AI

In this week’s Digiday+ Research Briefing, we examine BuzzFeed’s plans to pivot the business to an AI-driven tech and media company, how marketers’ use of X and ad spending has dropped dramatically, and how agency executives are fed up with Meta’s ad platform bugs and overcharges, as seen in recent data from Digiday+ Research.