Surfers Prefer Personalization

Internet users will trade personal information for personalized content, a ChoiceStream survey found, and young adults are the most willing to give up the data.

Culled from the responses of 673 participants during May 2004, the survey was designed to understand how Internet users feel about personalization. The survey found that, on average, 81 percent of the respondents favored personal content.

“People are becoming accustomed to providing information and getting a benefit and a return and we think it is a trend that will continue as more and more trusted sites ask for information,” said Doug Feick, senior vice president of corporate development, ChoiceStream.

The highest level of interest in personalization was seen among 18 to 24-year-olds, while 35 to 49-year-olds expressed the least interest in personalized content.

Consumers Interested in
Personal Content, by Age
18-24 87%
25-34 82%
35-49 76%
50+ 77%
Source: ChoiceStream

The survey identified distinctions regarding personalized content in exchange for information, finding that younger consumers are more likely to impart demographic and preference data in exchange for content that met their particular interests.

Willingness to Provide Personal Data
for Personal Content, by Age
18-34 55+ Average
Demographic data 63% 49% 56%
Preference data 71% 57% 64%
Source: ChoiceStream

The types of content consumers wanted personalized varied by age category. “Younger respondents wanted [personalized] entertainment-related content, which could be shopping related. Older respondents wanted [personalized] news, travel and Web search,” said Feick.

The largest disparity among the age categories was seen in regard to Web search, where an interest in personalized content among those over age 50 was more than double their 18 to 24-year-old counterparts – 35 percent compared to 16 percent. The reason may be that the older generation is less Web-savvy, and therefore more inclined to want search results that are based on pre-arranged parameters.

Respondents were not as eager to have their clicks and purchases tracked by Web sites as they were willing to give out personal data. Just 40 percent said they would trade tracking for content. Roughly one-third of those over age 35 were willing, compared to 47 percent of those 18 to 34.

“One thing we thought was a little bit surprising is that even though a fairly substantial number would have clicks tracked – 40 percent – we thought it would be higher,” said Feick.

Feick pointed out that surfers were probably unaware that popular sites, such as Amazon, Yahoo and Google, already tracked clicks. While Yahoo and Google aggregate search data, Amazon tracks clicks to personalize user recommendations.

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