The right way to approach consent optimization

  • by Osano Staff
  • · posted on May 31, 2022
  • · 6 min read
The right way to approach consent optimization

Fifty-six percent of website visitors ignore opt-in cookie banners. For marketers, that figure has major implications.

Imagine how much more insightful your analyses could be if you had double the data from your website visitors. You could conduct more informative A/B testing, more quickly determine which channels generated the most referrals, and ultimately become more effective at your job — if only more of your users were willing to share their data with you.

Fortunately, there are ways to increase the rate at which your website visitors provide consent. Let’s explore some of the challenges preventing marketer’s from gathering more of their consumers’ data, how the concept of consent optimization can help, common pitfalls to avoid, and best practices to adopt.

Why do we need cookie consent in the first place?

We live in a society that values the right to privacy, and asking for consent or notifying website visitors before tracking user data isn’t just a sign of respect; it’s often the law. You could be a better marketer with more data, but even the most insightful marketing campaign isn’t worth the crippling fines your organization would risk by flirting with non-compliance.

Compounding this challenge is the fact that third-party cookies (i.e., tracking codes generated by a company other than yours that are stored on your visitors’ computer) are being phased out. As a replacement, businesses will have to rely on zero-party data (or information supplied directly from the website visitor) and first-party cookies (or tracking codes generated by your own organization and limited to your own website).

Consent will play an equal — if not greater — role with these alternatives to third-party cookies.

Marketers who feel concerned about these changes and seek a way to improve their data analytics might discover a possible solution through consent optimization. This practice can help increase the rate at which website visitors consent to cookie tracking, thus providing marketers with more actionable data.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of mistaken ideas about consent rate optimization, many of which can hurt you in the long run.

The problem with consent optimization

There are various ways you could tweak your website’s cookies banner to optimize for consent. You could, for instance:

  • Design your banners’ Accept All button in a way that makes it stand out relative to the Reject All button
  • Require additional clicks before users can reject all cookies
  • Design your banner in such a way that the Accept All or Reject All buttons stand out compared to the individual boxes indicating consent for different categories of optional cookies
  • Pre-tick boxes for optional cookies

At this point, your alarm bells should be ringing.

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All of these approaches to consent optimization are examples of dark patterns, or design choices that manipulate users and maximize the business’s value at the expense of the users’.

Dark patterns are all over the internet, and in most cases, they are merely unethical. When it comes to cookie consent, however, they are also often unlawful.

The practices listed above would indeed increase the rate at which your website visitors consent to cookies, but you’d be playing a dangerous game with data privacy authorities, your users’ trust, and your brand’s reputation. Consider the fact that:

  • The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office has stated that a “consent mechanism that emphasizes ‘agree’ or ‘allow’ over ‘reject’ or ‘block’ represents a non-compliant approach, as the online service is influencing users towards the ‘accept’ option.”
  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires that “consent can be withdrawn by the data subject as [easily] as giving consent and at any given time” and that “when consent is obtained via electronic means through only one mouse-click, swipe, or keystroke, data subjects must, in practice, be able to withdraw that consent equally as easily.”
  • Data privacy regulations generally follow the purpose limitation principle, which requires, in part, that users can consent to or reject cookies for individual purposes as easily as they can accept or reject all cookies.
  • The GDPR also indicates that “Consent should be given by a clear affirmative act” and specifically states that “Silence, pre-ticked boxes, or inactivity should not, therefore, constitute consent.”

Most of these findings apply to the GDPR. Still, that regulation (along with California’s CCPA/CPRA) is broadly considered the model upon which all other data privacy regulations are based. So, that rules out the consent optimization practices we described above. Is there any above-board way for marketers to increase their consent rates and improve the quality of their data?

Optimize for consent by following tried-and-true design principles

When implementing and/or customizing a consent management solution, the best way to maximize your consent rates is to look for an approach that maximizes the three characteristics described below.

1. Simplicity

No matter how you choose to manage consent, you should strive to keep simplicity front and center. Part of what makes for a simple consent management system is an easy-to-understand user interface that clearly indicates what actions provide or withdraw consent for which cookies.

Note how this tactic is, in many ways, opposite to the dark patterns we described above. Rather than manipulate users into giving consent, provide users with a clear understanding of what they are consenting to. Being clear and simple will go a long way toward reassuring users who would otherwise be reluctant to share their data.

Striving for simplicity also means your solution should be simple to implement. If you find it tedious and difficult to implement a cookie banner that’s compliant in every major language and every jurisdiction, you’re probably better off using a consent management platform (CMP). Even the most convoluted CMP will be simpler for you to implement than working with a web developer for a manual solution. The Osano CMP, for instance, can get you compliant with just one line of JavaScript.

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2. Reliability

As a consequence of implementing a simple consent management solution, you’ll also gain reliability. Manually developing a cookie banner will require ongoing maintenance and adjustments, practically ensuring that a website visitor will eventually view a banner that displays the wrong information, a banner with broken CSS that hides essential information, a banner optimized for a different geography, and other errors.

Obviously, when your consent banner is broken, your consent rate will drop significantly. Using a CMP greatly reduces the chances that your users will see a broken consent banner.

3. Trustworthiness

Your cookie consent banners should be clear, transparent, and — as a result — trustworthy. Tell your site visitors exactly what they are consenting to and what their rights are in plain language.

Well-designed CMPs will come packaged with vetted language and designs that maximize clarity, compliance, and trustworthiness. At Osano, we embrace this principle by pledging to cover any fines for non-compliance incurred by our users. We can do this because we focus on maximizing clarity and securing fully informed consent from our users’ website visitors.

The bottom line: Let a CMP optimize consent rates for you

The higher your consent rate, the better you’ll be able to understand your audience and meet their needs. But manipulating website visitors through dark patterns isn’t the way to go about optimizing your consent rate. Under that approach, you’ll annoy prospects at best and receive crippling fines for non-compliance at worst.

Instead, marketers should adopt simple and above-board design principles when optimizing for consent on their website. Implementing a solution that’s simple for both your prospects to understand and for you to set up is essential. Doing so will guarantee a reliable experience that consistently displays the right information to the right audiences. And above all, your solution should feel trustworthy to both yourself and your users.

At Osano, we adhere to all of these principles.

You don’t have to use a CMP to manage consent, but without one, it will be challenging to design a consent experience that results in the data you need — not to mention that managing an in-house consent solution takes valuable time out of your day.

That’s why businesses who care about staying in compliance without distracting from revenue-generating activities use CMPs. And businesses that care about ethical and transparent consent optimization use Osano. In fact, Osano secures consent from over 3 billion users every month across 750,000 different websites.

Sign up for a free 30-day trial of Osano to try it yourself. You might be surprised by the number of website visitors willing to share their data.

About The Author · Osano Staff

The Osano staff is a diverse team of free thinkers who enjoy working as part of a distributed team with the common goal of working to make a more transparent internet. Occasionally, the team writes under the pen name of our mascot, “Penny, the Privacy Pro.”