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Best practices for consent and preference management

By Greg Griffiths | Posted on January 21, 2019

Consent and preference management best practices

Today's consumers want more say in how their brand interactions unfold. Whether they're dictating which ads appear online or scaling back the depth of personalization they experience, more customers are interested in setting the ground rules for engagement.

This is all a natural result of the "Privacy-Personalization Paradox," in which people naturally gravitate toward (and are intrigued by) highly customized and tailored experiences, but remain cautious about handing over their personal data to corporations to get those unique interactions. The 2018 Facebook-Cambridge Analytics scandal served to further ramp up concerns regarding the safety and integrity of personal data, as our own survey found that 57 percent of American consumers were more worried about data privacy following that incident.

While many brands have gotten tripped up trying to solve this conundrum, it's not impossible to successfully work around. Consent and preference management platforms empower customers to create their own personalization, marketing and data controls and find the balance between highly tailored engagement and individual privacy that's just right for them.

What should brands include in a preference management solution, and what guidelines should they adhere to on a day-to-day basis to provide the best user experience possible while respecting their customers' privacy? Read on to find out which three consent and preference management best practices have the greatest impact on customer engagement.

1. Give consumers control of their data and preferences

When designing a preference management solution, brands need to implement tools, controls and options that speak directly to consumers' data privacy concerns. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation has been a game changer in terms of giving individuals agency over their own personal information and determining how it can be used. According to our own research, consumers in the United States are intrigued by many of the provisions included in GDPR, with 39 percent of respondents saying they would most like to see "right to be forgotten" policies recreated on American shores. Meanwhile, 38 percent would prefer to have the ability to decide how brands leverage their data.

Your preference management platform needs to take these insights to heart and give customers as many options as they desire regarding the collection, storage and use of their personal information.

Part of what makes the Privacy-Personalization Paradox so confounding for consumer brands is that everyone has a different threshold for targeted engagement. What one person considers delightfully personalized and proactive can be viewed as off-putting and invasive by another. It's not up to brands to decide where that line is; they need to trust that each customer can set their own boundaries. A little discretion can go a long way.

2. Eliminate data silos by integrating your marketing stack

Prevailing consumer views on data-driven personalization strategies are a bit conflicted, as many people are torn between their desire for customized experiences and their concerns over data privacy. Striking the exact right stance between these two viewpoints requires a deft touch, but brands aren't going to make any headway if they're unable to provide real, tangible value when customers do decide to hand over their personal information.

To that end, you need to integrate your preference management center with any and all systems, databases and applications that gather or house consumer data. For one, by completely integrating your preference management solution, you can be sure that customer-chosen controls are adhered to at all times at different touch points.

Arguably the most important reason for total integration is that you want to compile as much information as possible from as many sources as possible to gain a 360-degree view of your customers. The more you know about your customers at different touch points, the better you'll understand what drives each of them and what they care about most.

That insight feeds back into your preference management center too. If you bombard users with too many questions at once right off the bat, you run the risk of creating friction and harming the customer experience. By pulling data from other sources, brands can start creating a personalized preference strategy without immediate input from the customer. Any questions that need to be asked will be more nuanced and insightful, further demonstrating your brand's commitment to a balanced and sophisticated engagement policy.

3. Make consent management part of a positive user experience

As noted above, you need to reduce friction wherever possible to enhance the user experience and make a positive impression on your customers. If your interface is too complex or takes too long to set up, users may decide that it's not worth the time and energy and decide to just opt out of all data-sharing agreements. Tools like social login and single sign-on can go a long way toward streamlining on-boarding processes and helping users get started as quickly as possible. Minimizing the consumer data collected during the registration process - requesting only the data needed to provide the customer's desired experience - and investing resources in treating your consent management dashboard as an extension of the overall user experience will improve your UX and build trust with your customer base.

Brands should also complement the information and preferences directly provided by customers with inferred ones that their analytics platforms have derived based on user behavior and activity. It's unrealistic to expect customers to keep their account and profile information up to date 100 percent of the time, so sophisticated analytics solutions are necessary to fill in the gaps and identify those moments when your customer is saying one thing, but they really want something else entirely. Those situations present incredible opportunities to showcase your brand's personalization capabilities and demonstrate to your customers that you really do understand what they value and what will make them happy.

Preference management solutions will only become more important in the coming years as consumers continue to demand uniquely personalized interactions with their favorite brands while simultaneously wringing their hands over the potential data privacy implications. Adhering to these best practices today will help codify them into your everyday operations and maintain a balanced, sensible approach to targeted customer engagement. To find out more about preference management basics and strategies, view our on-demand webinar, "The Anatomy of a Preference Center."

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About the author

Greg Griffiths

Greg Griffiths

Sr. Product Marketing Manager

Greg Griffiths brings more than 15 years' experience marketing SaaS solutions in the enterprise IT, publishing and education arenas to Janrain as our Senior Product Marketing Manager. Greg drives much of Janrain's content and works across groups to ensure cohesive and articulate presentation of how our products and services align with the needs of our clients and the larger market. An analytics geek, Greg also steers much of Janrain's internal SEO and conversion initiatives, as well as new product launches. 

When Greg is away from our Portland office, he's likely enjoying time with his kids, near a trout stream, in a hammock, with a Faulkner novel close by ... probably all four at the same time.

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