Consumer Opt-Outs Are Increasingly Common

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Nearly one-third of U.S. consumers would decline non-essential website cookies if asked, and 58 percent opt out of mailing lists regularly, according to a new report from research firm Attest.

An overwhelming 84 percent of Americans are concerned about data privacy when interacting with companies online (including 41 percent who are “very concerned”).

The research firm says this concern about intrusive data gathering and personal advertisements also appears to be universal. Of those surveyed, 55- to 64-year-olds showed the highest concentration of worry about their data privacy (at 87 percent), yet even 82 percent of digital natives (aged 18 to 24) said they were uneasy with how their information is gathered by companies online.

Due in large part to these concerns, 85 percent of consumers opt out of company mailing lists at least some of the time.

Outside of mailing lists, the research shows that consumers who decline cookies are most likely to do so because they don’t want to be targeted with advertising and because they don’t trust the website with their data. More than a quarter (27 percent) have concerns about hackers stealing their data.

The company type and industry can have a distinct impact on consumer willingness to share data, according to the research. This can be seen in the following results showing the likelihood to opt-out of first-party cookies by website type:

  • Social media websites (47 percent)
  • Travel websites (42 percent)
  • Food and beverage websites (40 percent)
  • Financial services websites (39 percent)
  • Retail websites (39 percent)

Some firms are responding by providing ad-free options. In October, Meta, for example, introduced its first ad-free subscriptions in Europe and could extend them to the United States in the near future. With this monthly subscription, users can enjoy Facebook and Instagram without ads.

According to Attest, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of U.S. consumers would likely subscribe to such an offering, even at a relatively high price point. Gen Z Americans in particular show high intent to subscribe to the service (40 percent), so advertisers would no longer be able to reach them on Instagram, one of this demographic’s most used platforms.

Another alternative is for companies to collect and use zero-party data, which is data that the customer intentionally and proactively shares with the business.

Attest reported the following zero-party data research:

  • Forty-eight percent of consumers stated they would be more likely to trust companies that collect zero-party data.
  • Consumers would be more at ease using company websites (57 percent) and social media (53 percent) if zero-party collection was used.
  • With such increased trust created, nearly half (49 percent) would be willing to opt into company mailing lists.

And when it comes to data collection, interactive surveys top the list of preferred options. In fact, 47 percent of respondents in Attest’s research said interactive surveys are their preferred way for companies to capture data about them, followed by loyalty cards and online forms. Cookies and customer chat services/chatbots were at the bottom of preferences (at 18 percent).

And consumer surveys were listed as the most popular data collection method across all age groups; 66 percent of consumers aged 18 to 24 say they prefer them, as do 41 percent of those aged 55 to 64.

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