3 Reasons Why Retailers Need To Control Online Tracking

  • August 13, 2013 at 1:31 PM EDT
  • By Chris Babel, CEO, TRUSTe
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Retail sites are jam packed with first- and third-party tracking code, but retailers are often unaware of all the tracking occurring on their sites. While some tracking may be legitimate, much is not, and it’s the unauthorized tracking that can cause the biggest problems.

In the case of unauthorized tracking, what you don’t know can hurt you. Unauthorized tracking has a direct impact on a retailer’s bottom line through:

  1. Lost revenue
  2. Lack of consumer confidence
  3. Poor site performance

Combined, the above can not only cause irreparable damage to your brand’s reputation, but also expose you to regulatory non-compliance. To illustrate, consider how an unauthorized tracker might impact you in a brick and mortar environment.  

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1. Lost Revenue

Your salespeople are out on the floor, interacting with customers. Unbeknownst to you — salespeople from a number of competitors have entered your store and — while you and your staff aren’t watching — are approaching them with alternative offers to go next door. You don’t even know that they’re there — they look like ordinary people – so you can’t stop them from approaching your customers.

In the online world, unauthorized retargeting of your most valuable site visitors causes significant revenue loss through data leakage. Unauthorized trackers have carefully monitored the goods your customers are interested in by watching their behaviors, so they are a step further along in the process, and can approach them right under your very nose — in your very own store. Unless you have insight into who is on your online site, you are powerless to take control and deter these incidents.

2. Lack Of Consumer Confidence

You’re buying a new outfit at a department store and hand your credit card to the salesperson. Rather than quickly swiping the card and returning it to you, the salesperson leaves it on the counter where your account number and name are clearly visible. In fact, the salesperson actually stops your transaction midway to do something else entirely, leaving your data exposed and unprotected, and you suspect others are looking at it.

If customers believe their privacy is not treated with care, if customers believe their personal data is handled poorly, if customers believe a site doesn’t know who’s looking at their data, they might complain. More likely, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

Furthermore, without insight into how your customer data is being accessed, you are severely handicapped in meeting regulatory requirements.

3. Poor Site Performance

Service is slow. You’re waiting in a long line, and it’s taking forever. Then when you get to the front — finally — they close the register. Frustrated, rather than moving to another register — with another line — you march out of the store.

Just as consumers get frustrated with poor performance in the brick and mortar world, they also get frustrated when the same occurs online. And — for retailers — unauthorized tracking code can significantly slow sites and degrade overall performance. Slower loading time and lower search engine rankings equate to unhappy customers and potential lost business.

Customer Privacy Is Critical Business

Trust is earned through the experience delivered to the customer, and confidence is gained through consistent experiences. While privacy is not the only factor in gaining consumer trust, it ranks right up their with product quality as arguably the most vital component of customer service. By demonstrating respect for how customer information is handled, giving customers choices in how their data can be used and adhering to those choices and best industry practices, you gain trust.

Unauthorized trackers present an enormous obstacle in your ability to maintain that trust. When a customer’s privacy has been breached, you lose their confidence. Retailers must be able to identify all trackers across all of their domains and understand how those parties came to be there. Without this knowledge, they can’t take the necessary steps to block them and protect their brand and their business.


Chris Babel is CEO for TRUSTe, a global Data Privacy Management (DPM) company, and has more than a decade of experience building online trust. Under Babel’s leadership, TRUSTe is powering trust in the data economy by enabling businesses to safely collect and use customer data across web, mobile, cloud and advertising channels.

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