How to Gather Customer Data Without Annoying the Hell Out of Them


business meeting

Today’s businesses have to rely on customer data, not only to make strategic decisions to keep themselves ahead of the competition, but to better personalize the customer experience. And though customers want more control over data privacy and how their information is used, they are willing to share personal data when there are clear benefits delivered in exchange for that information. Nearly everyone will share information in exchange for cash rewards, whereas only 65.2% will share it in exchange for loyalty points redeemable for products and services.

So how can you collect the data you need to succeed in business and giving customers what they want, without being intrusive and annoying? It’s not easy, but it’s not as difficult as you may think.


Customer Data and Trust

Let’s take a second to talk about data and trust. That same study revealed 83% of people expect brands and advertisers to ask their permission before using any digital information. This “informed consent” is smart because it helps to establish trust between the consumer and the brand.

Customers are conflicted. One study showed 60% of consumers want those personalized, real-time offers from retailers, yet only 20% of them are okay with sharing their location, and only 14% are willing to share their browsing history. They want their cake, and to eat it, too – and it comes down to an issue of trust – or lack thereof.

Why are you collecting the data you’re collecting? Only when you understand the kinds of information you need and why, will you be able to properly communicate the reasons behind why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you don’t need someone’s credit score – then don’t ask for it. Take the time to outline the kind of information you’re collecting, why you’re collecting it, and how you keep it secure. Develop a comprehensive privacy policy and an opt-out policy, and make it easy for customers to participate in either case.

Once you have it all figured out, be transparent about it. Customers may not be too happy about having to share their location with you – but when they understand how and why it is used, and they see the benefit of it, they may do it anyway. If they are given the option to not share their location with you, and understand how their experience is effected if they choose not to, they will feel more in control of the situation.


Website Analytics

Google Analytics, and other website analytics options, such as heat maps and split-testing, will provide you with a plethora of information about the people who are visiting your website. Though the data is anonymous, it still gives you some insight you can use to create a better user experience in the future.

With Google Analytics, you can see information like:

  • Demographics: Country of visit origin, city, language, gender, age,
  • Engagement: Whether they are a new or returning visitor, the session duration, frequency and recency of the visits
  • System information: Browser, operating system, service provider; mobile operating system, mobile service provider, and mobile screen resolution
  • Traffic Acquisition: Where the visitors are coming from – search, social media, AdWords, and more
  • Behavior: Pages on the site they’re visiting, where they come in, where they leave, what they’re searching for on your site
  • Interests
  • Conversions

With heat maps, you can see where people are spending the most time on your website – you can use this to determine where their eyes naturally go, and whether or not they are scrolling to see all the content.

With split testing, you can serve two different versions of your website to randomly selected users – so you can determine which they respond to the best. It’s best to run a single split test at a time, so you can isolate the variables that made a difference in their response. You can test everything from the layout, to the site copy, to colors, to images and video, and more. Repeating split-test after split test can help you craft the “perfect” website for your audience.


Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System

Surveys, Quizzes,& Polls

Whether you use an external service like SurveyMonkey, or something like Google Forms, or the built-in Facebook Polls feature, this is a non-intrusive way to get customer feedback data you can use to make improvements. You can also use it to learn more about your target audience preferences, thoughts, and opinions.

 Many retailers, like JustFab, are using quizzes to improve the user experience – tailoring it to the wants and needs of their customers based on their quiz results. Jamberry’s Stylebox subscription, uses a style quiz to let each customer customize their box, getting more value from their $25/month.


Social Media

Just like your website analytics can provide a wealth of information about your audience, so you can social media analytics data.  You can see demographics information about your audience, as well as engagement data to determine how people are responding to the content. This information, combined with information from other sources can help you make more informed business decisions and better targeted marketing campaigns.


Contests & Giveaways

If you have information you need to get, but feel like people would be reluctant to give it to you, try running some kind of contest or giveaway. You can tap into people’s love of free stuff, and they’ll give you a bunch of information in exchange for a chance to win.

If you’re seeking to collect emails so you can stay in contact with them after they’re done shopping with you, or in an effort to make them shop with you in the future, offer them a discount code that’s valid for a certain amount of time, just for joining your email list.


Loyalty Cards/Programs

Practically everywhere you look, there is a brand with a loyalty card or some sort of loyalty program. The specifics of each program vary, but the basic principle is the same. Sign up – give us your name, address, phone number, email address and X other data depending on the type of the program. Use this card every time you shop with us, and we’ll give you X free product, or X discount when you reach a certain threshold.

These types of programs attach each customer to their purchase history. Depending on the nature of the program, it may be to send the customer personalized coupons on a regular basis, to upgrade their status once a certain spending threshold is reached (Kohl’s Charge customers reach MVC – most valued customer – status when they spend $600 per calendar year. This gets them additional perks, such as free shipping codes throughout the year.)



On a variety of websites, like Amazon, customers have the option to “window shop” or compile a list of products they want to buy at some point. These are a great way to share gift ideas with friends and family, keep track of items you wan to save to purchase later, and remember items without actually placing them in your shopping cart. Wishlists are so popular, there are a number of websites where you can create your own wishlist from products across multiple retailers and websites.

From the business perspective, it helps keep an eye on which products are most desired and find patterns. For instance, maybe you notice that the majority of accountholders who are woman between the ages of 18 and 25 are the only ones with a particular product on their list. You can survey them to find out what is holding them back from buying – is it a want vs. need thing? A financial thing? Maybe put the product on sale and see if that entices any of the customers to move it from their wish list t their cart, and then go through the checkout process?


Content Marketing

No matter your niche and the products or services you’re trying to sell, your experience has value. And customers out there want to learn. Use keyword research and Google autocomplete, along with tools like Ask the People to find ideas for tutorials that people want.

Continuing with the Jamberry example – they are a direct sales company, selling vinyl nail wraps, nail polish, and other nail care products. Because the nail wraps are essentially stickers that must be applied with heat, many customers who are new to the company are nervous about the application process. The main company has a series of tutorials on their website, but individual consultants have created their own YouTube videos showing the various application and removal methods, to help educate their current customers and draw in new ones.

They’re not necessarily collecting customer information with those videos, but it does provide another source of analytics data to help make informed decisions about ways they can market their business to stand out from the competition from other consultants.


Data is Everywhere – and Makes the Digital World Go Round

 According to the IDC, we created 1.8 zettabytes – that’s 1.8 trillion gigabytes – of information in 2011. The following year, we reached 2.8 zettabytes, and we’re forecasted to reach 40 zettabytes by 2020. That’s a lot of data, and most companies won’t ever be able to use all the data they store. Instead of collecting all the data you can get your hands on, collect only what you know to be useful – and what you know you will use.

It will help foster trust with your customers, make the information easier to analyze for strategic decisions, and reduce the need for massive storage devices or costly cloud storage plans.

How do you feel as a consumer about the data businesses collect? As a business owner, do you feel like you understand it better, and does this make you less hesitant to hand the information over? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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