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Monitoring and trust: Alterian recommends transparency to accompany its tool

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30th Mar 2010
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While Alterian has just launched its new web behaviour analytics solution, CEO David Eldridge acknowledges that transparency and permission should accompany such tools.

Alterian has launched its new web behaviour analytics solution today - but its CEO acknowledges that businesses will need to be entirely transparent about their use of such technology in order to protect customer trust and improve engagement.
Recent research by the software firm revealed that almost 60% of businesses have identified 'engaging individuals on the website' as a top area for investment this year. And Alterian’s WebJourney promises the ability to deliver just this, monitoring and analysing users’ behavioural data to allow businesses to tailor information to the user’s interests.
However, there is deepening consumer cynicism towards corporate behaviour and increasing concern about the likes of Phorm, deep packet inspection and similar surveillance. And Alterian CEO David Eldridge believes that in order for firms to convince customers that monitoring technology is being deployed with the user interests at heart – specifically improved engagement – they will need to be transparent about their use of the technology.
"We are very clear about how businesses should put on the front of their websites how they are going to gather and use data, and give an opt-out even for anonymous users," says Eldridge. "But beyond that, when someone does register, they should have the option to opt-in to have that data used by that organisation – and only that organisation - to improve the relevance of their communications. As the trust builds more and more people will opt-in. And actually more and more people who want a relationship with that organisation will give them other opt-in data like their Twitter name and Facebook name and be happy to be contacted there."
Eldridge is keen to emphasise Alterian’s credentials in this respect, highlighting that the firm set up the Social Media Marketing Council in the US, which is focused on the responsible use of social media data that is gathered. "We are very strong on best practices and making sure that we are doing everything that we can to provide the tools and techniques and guidance for firms to be on the right side of that debate," he insists.
Behavioural analysis
He is also keen to distinguish WebJourney from the controversial Phorm. "Phorm looks across many websites and shares information across organisations that may not be related. We are talking about an organisation and its relationship with a consumer or visitor," he explains. "So, for instance, we’re talking about Alterian using information about what a visitor does on the Alterian website for Alterian to improve its relationship with that individual.
"One of the analogies we use is that if you walk into Currys Digital, and you wander up to the flatscreen TVs and look at them you are probably not offended by the sales rep that comes up to you and tells you about a special offer. That is reasonable because you have gone into that store and it is reasonable that they see what you’re doing in that store and come and try and assist you. But if that same rep follows you out of the door into Boots next door and sees you walk up to the anti-aging creams and says ‘I think it will be useful based on the advert you just watched on the TV in our store, what you really need is a particular brand of face cream’, you might find that intrusive and offensive. And that is the difference between us and Phorm."
What WebJourney does do, however, is serve up in-depth behavioural analysis that goes beyond the click counting of traditional web analytics. It registers if someone has hovered over a particular piece of content for a period of time, for instance, or if a user has selected and copied content to put somewhere else. This raw interaction data is then turned into relevant metrics and triggers by its customisable experts, with all the information made available through Alterian’s analytics tools, for interaction and dashboarding.
With an Alterian survey suggesting that nearly half of respondents don’t incorporate any form of web data into their customer database, Eldridge believes that WebJourney will represent a big opportunity to businesses. But permission and customer trust will have a part to play.
"There are some people that just don’t want information about them, in any shape or form, used in any way. And that is fine. But many people want to have the kind of relationship of trust where their information can be used to make their life better," Eldridge concludes. "The opportunity here is for organisations to be extremely clear and extremely upfront about what they want to do, how they want to use that information and what the benefit will be to everyone. And if they’re upfront then for many of the organisations that I deal with, I would certainly be very happy to give my permission for that to be used providing that I always had the instantaneous opportunity to revoke that permission if I didn’t like what was done and I was very clear on the use.
"It is the organisations that try and hide it in some way that will suffer."
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