You have probably been hearing a lot over the past couple of weeks about “do not track” and that companies are following you.
But what does “do not track” really mean for you?
Well, means that you may lose some really great customer service.
But we extoll great customer service.
Last month I walked into my local deli and they already know exactly what I wanted to order, “a ruben?” Last week my car mechanic told me I am due for an oil change. And yesterday, I walked into my local bank and they greet me by name.
Each time this occurred, I told my friends and family about this great customer service.
These practices are all part of an age-old mantra for businesses, “know thy customer.” It is a mantra that businesses like Nordstrom know well. If you know your customer you can actually improve their experience and in return the customer will frequent your store and recommend it to friends.
These practices are being translated to the online space.
When I visit NYTimes.com, it knows who I am and populates with articles my friends recently read. When on Fandango.com, the website shows me trailers for movies based on ones I previously expressed an interest in. And when I visit Amazon.com, Amazon recommends books I may like interested based on previous purchases.
As a result, I read more articles on NYTimes.com, I buy more movie tickets on Fandango.com, and I purchase more books through Amazon.
This is a modern-day version of “know thy customer.” And it is mutually beneficial, I see stuff that’s relevant to me and online businesses don’t waste money showing me things for which I have no interest.
This is a modern-day version of “know thy customer.”
And unlike the physical world, if I don’t want online businesses to know me, I can always turn-on a “do not track” feature available in most internet browsers.
But rather than giving me tools to opt-out of these beneficial practices, some groups are requiring that these services be denied to me by default. These groups say that consumers will just opt back into the services if they are truly beneficial.
However, for the most part, people just want the internet to work! This means that if third-party groups successfully advocate the turning off of these services, most people will be surprised to see their custom online features disappear.
Many people will not know why they no longer see articles their friends read, or ads from Amazon recommending books to them, or how to turn them back on. All they will know is that their custom online experience is diminished.
Part of this customization allows for more effective ads on otherwise free websites. But without customized advertisements, websites will make less money. With less revenue websites may decrease services, charge for content, or even increase the number of ads on the site.
For most of us, we want customized online experiences. We want our businesses to know exactly what we are interested in so that they can make recommendations of products we might not have considered on our own.
But we must be wary of third-party groups who want to constrict this mutually beneficial relationship and dictate to us what services they think we should receive.
Rather than letting these third-party groups take away our customized internet, we should encourage and support good online customer service and the practice of “knowing thy customer.”