Online lead generation is constantly up against challenges like registration page abandonment, not to mention false or incomplete contact information. Those problems are often fueled by consumers' fears that their information will be sold to irrelevant advertisers or misused. TRUSTe has its sights set on the lead gen sector, such as companies that operate sites that collect contact information of in-market car shoppers or would-be college students. As the company adjusts to its commercial status, it is banking on the sector as its next target among small and medium sized business clients it hopes will drive new revenue streams.
The company's seal - updated three years ago - has become well-known in the past decade as a symbol of verification that consumer privacy will be protected during e-commerce transactions or when downloading software.
More recently, TRUSTe has applied its "trustmark" to behaviorally-targeted ads, and now, online lead generation forms. Dealix, a provider of in-market car shopper leads for dealers, has been placing the TRUSTe seal on lead gen forms across its sites, including its flagship UsedCars.com, for around three months. Compared to 60 days before its test, Dealix said its lead conversion rose 7 percent in less than 30 days after placing the seal on its lead gen pages.
"In sites like ours where we're asking consumers to reveal a bit about themselves... it's important that site is reviewed by an objective third party," said Ellen Perelman, VP of marketing at Dealix. "It's an added level of confidence."
From a privacy protection perspective, the extension of TRUSTe's seal beyond online shopping transactions to things like lead generation or behavioral targeting seems natural. It also represents an application further up in the marketing funnel before the payment stage, said Chris Babel, the company's CEO. "[It's protecting] what's happening with your information as opposed to what's happening with your credit card," he said.
According to Babel, the company requires firms employing the seal for lead gen pages to satisfy certification criteria upfront, as well as during regular monitoring to ensure continued compliance. All pages where data is collected, for instance, must include links to privacy policies that explain data collection and sharing. TRUSTe also seeds clients like Dealix with e-mail records it tracks to make sure consumers are only receiving messages related to subjects they've expressed interest in.
Founded as a nonprofit, TRUSTe became a commercial entity in 2008, and charges for its publisher clients to display its seal. The privacy seal provider has also branched out into behavioral advertising-related privacy protection, running pilots on Comcast.com and Publishers Clearing House's PCHLotto.com to test an online preference manager. Whether an icon on a Web page will strengthen consumer confidence when it comes to divulging personal information to marketers remains to be seen. Indeed, as media and regulatory spotlights on online privacy associated with things like Facebook posts and online ad targeting brightens, consumers may become even more hesitant to provide personal information online.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.