How should organisations approach the EU cookie directive?
With less than six months to go until the one-year ‘grace period’ for EU cookie directive comes to an end, all UK businesses should now be seeking an effective solution.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) stipulates that by 26 May 2012 all UK websites will require the full consent of the end user in order to continue using cookies. While failure to comply is expected to land hefty fines for the website owners.
Reports from last week suggest the ICO is already concerned that firms are ignoring the new directive, but warns that “UK website owners cannot simply ignore the new rules”.
The challenge for marketers and agencies
The trouble is, we live in a society where behaviour towards online privacy and security varies drastically, and not just from person to person. Individuals are capable of having mixed, often contradictory, views on the information they provide or consent to online.
For example, the same user may be happy to accept the permission requirements of a mobile app and divulge their personal information on Facebook, but balk when a website that asks for them to opt-in for full access of its content.
These nuances represent a big challenge for marketers and their digital agencies. They need to choose and implement a solution that avoids turning off the majority of users but which is ultimately successful at securing the consent.
But before considering the different options available, businesses will first need to audit their site to discover what cookies it is currently using.
Some cookies may be there to help users to personalise their experience, such as a simple country setting or signing into a registered account, while others are required for tracking and analysing the user journey.
It’s the insights provided by these cookies that help firms to better understand users and their online behaviour; they can help to shape online experiences, increase traffic and improve sales. So if users choose not to consent for cookies to be used, businesses will be missing out on some incredibly valuable information.
Therefore, the results of the cookie audit will be vital in helping businesses to identify a solution that minimises the impact the directive has.
EU cookie solutions
Although yet to materialise, the UK government has promised guidelines to help businesses to find the right solution. This is likely to have a big impact on the approach businesses take; although, this hasn’t stopped several of them experimenting with solutions.
Early examples have seen websites using roll-overs at the top or foot of web pages; some making a brief request for consent, others explaining the reasons for asking. This approach benefits from a minimal impact on user experience, but it’s easy to miss and is therefore likely to be the least effective in gaining that valuable opt-in.
An alternative solution is to provide users with a lightbox when arriving at the site. This would ensure the data required for analytics is covered, but could see higher bounce rates as users become put-off by the disruption to their user experience.
Plan and test
There’s little doubt that the next six months will be a learning curve for the whole industry. There are still businesses and individuals debating the merits and impact of the directive, from greater levels of transparency to eroding online marketing spend. Even Google is yet to respond directly to the rule change.
Ultimately, as with any digital marketing challenge, the solution will be unique to the business it’s for. It should factor in the specific characteristics and demands of its users, so that the objectives are met without harming the user experience.
If they’ve yet to do so, UK businesses need be thinking about the EU cookie law right now and, by the end of January, have a plan in place for how the challenge will be met.
Testing different solutions for short periods of time could be the most productive approach; perhaps by inviting users if they wish to opt-out, and then tracking and analysing the data that follows.
In the end, it will be the organisations that take a proactive approach to solving the cookie conundrum that will be best-placed to succeed.
If you’d like help finding a solution to the EU cookie directive, get in touch with the Rippleffect team to discuss your options.