How To Collect Customer Data Without Being a Jerk

I recently clicked on an article I wanted to read on, after which I was oddly taken to a “Thought of the Day” page I needed to click through in order to reach the article. “Quirky, but unnecessary,” I thought.

As I began reading the article, a random cellphone ad began playing a video about taking selfies and I was inclined to scroll up to mute it, before I could continue reading. After getting through a few more sentences, my screen went dark around the article, and an ad about Lexus popped up on top of it—and why not, really? What makes for better reading than a forced, completely unavoidable invitation to compulsively purchase a luxury vehicle?

After closing the pop-up window and continuing with my article, I accidentally clicked on a large, obtrusive Tiffany’s ad and began to wonder if a world that allows us to be treated this way is worth living in. “Perhaps I should find a self-sustaining farm to live on,” I mused.

Given the lack of etiquette shown by most sites, simply asking for an email address seems harmless, right? After all, we’ve all read somewhere that the numbers show it doesn’t hurt to ask…. right?

I generally find that if you have to justify it to yourself, it’s likely because your store has implemented lead capturing in a way that is self-serving, rather than presenting an environment where shoppers are rewarded for providing information.

You can collect customer data in ways that benefit customers, without annoying them:

Quizzes and Polls

Who doesn’t want to know what their spirit animal is, or which era of music they truly belong in? People are constantly being harassed to fill things out and share information about themselves.

Quizzes and polls are our chance to share our intelligent data back with them, using what are essentially fun, learning games. Personalized shopping sites like Frank & Oak and JustFab are on the rise because they offer a more tailored (curated) experience, and the key to providing that is quizzing customers about what they like.

Anyone that relies on a sales associate to help them pick out wine, would appreciate the interactive survey offered by eCommerce wine merchant, Glassful, which applies the answers to questions like favorite spirits, ice cream flavors and smells to their intuitive wine recommendations.

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Run Contests and Giveaways

People love free stuff and they’ll give you all kinds of personal information to get it. Like quizzes and polls, running a contest gives you the opportunity to collect valuable customer data because the customer gets some value out of giving it to you.  If you are planning on interrupting your shoppers with light box pop-ups, then use it as an opportunity to offer them a discount or a chance to win something.

Content Marketing

eCommerce marketers get so bogged down in day-to-day operations, like merchandising, that they forget that the knowledge and experience they’ve accumulated makes them an expert in that field, and that expertise has intrinsic value towards content marketing. Instead of thinking up another promotion, create some premium content that teaches your customers something they’d be interested in learning

Considering there are entire Tumblr sites and Pinterest boards dedicated to makeup fails, I would bet merchants like Mac Makeup are able to collect all the customer information they want with the video tutorials they offer.

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Wish Lists and Loyalty Programs

How many times have you wanted to bookmark an item and created an account with the store just to add it to a wish list? We expend so much energy on being clever and keeping up with the latest trends in marketing that often we neglect the classics.

Features whose utilization require signing up or logging in have been quintessential for capturing leads for a long time now. Not only do they still work, they are not considered abrasive because people are accustomed to them. So dust off the oldies but goodies: make the wish list button a more prominent part of your product pages and get new shoppers to join your loyalty program with deals that entice them to buy now.

Twitter Lead Generation Cards

I mentioned that people like free things, discounts and content offers; Twitter Lead Generation Cards are a pain free way to offer those things to your social following as well as targeted Twitter users.  Like normal sponsored Tweets, they deliver offers to the audience you target.

The difference with Twitter Cards is that you get their name, email and Twitter handle straight from the Twitter database when users click to receive the offer. With this quick delivery system, you’re no longer forcing people to landing pages with un-mobile friendly forms. The result is some of the best conversion rates I’ve ever witnessed. And, best of all, you get information without being a jerk!


Getting the customer to tell you what they want before you pitch them your product is an age-old sales method, but it’s always been employed with the intention of assisting the customer. Technology continues to give us more tools to do this and it’s up to us to use them with the customer’s interest in mind and not just our own.


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