Online Marketers Open Up the Profile Files to Consumers

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Promotions technology provider BrightStreet.com next week will begin offering consumers who participate in promotions at clients' sites the chance to alter their profile information. The initiative reflects a trend gathering steam in the online marketing world as companies such as warranty registration site BrandStamp.com and database firm I-Behavior prepare to roll out similar offerings.


The Privacy Manager Solution allows consumers to manage, modify and delete the profiles they have created while visiting sites powered by BrightStreet, including PetSmart.com and Val-Pak.com.


This is accomplished through a toolbar that appears on the screen where any BrightStreet promotional, coupon or free sample offer appears. A "review my profile" button has been added to the toolbar. When the consumer clicks the button, they are prompted to enter their secure password. After entering the password, they are shown their comprehensive profile. They can then make modifications in real time.


"After extensive research with government, business and consumers, we found that what consumers want most is control and choice over their personal information," said Scott Wills, CEO of BrightStreet, Cupertino, CA. "We built a product that allows our customers to make the following promise: you are never more than one click away from reviewing your secured profile when offers are being targeted to you."


The action of allowing consumers access to their personal profile information will become more ubiquitous on the Web as other companies begin to embrace this strategy.


BrandStamp, an Internet-based provider of warranty registration services for consumer products purchased online, will begin offering a "digital drawer" next month.


This will allow consumers who register their products online to change the information they provided to the manufacturer of the product they purchased. The strategy is to give consumers online complete control over their data versus the offline world, where consumers have no control, said Sean Brown, president of BrandStamp, Cambridge, MA. "The whole system in the offline world is geared towards the monetization of this consumer information, specifically for reselling this information to third parties -- parties with whom consumers have no previous relationship historically."


BrandStamp will not sell third-party information, unlike its offline predecessors. "In the past, it was done to defray the cost of processing the registration cards," said Brown. "We don't need to sell these names to everybody and their mother. We can afford, in our business model, to limit the availability just to the manufacturer."


I-Behavior, a marketing data and information services business that will launch this fall, will also allow consumers to control their personal information. The company's goal is to create a cooperative database of opt-in consumer names that will combine online and offline purchase information to serve as the basis for analysis and targeting.


Unlike other e-mail marketing companies, when a member company joins the co-op, consumers will be asked to double opt in to receive e-mails from other co-op members. Additionally, consumers will always have access to their information so that they can change their profiles or opt out at any time.


I-Behavior is just giving consumers what they want, according to Lynn Wunderman, CEO of I-Behavior, White Plains, NY. "Everything's a function of what the marketplace demands. It's a delicate balance online because people feel invaded and you have to respect that. We're being responsive to consumer need."


According to Brown, BrandStamp and the others are just ahead of the curve. These precautions "are preventing third-party companies from spamming people. As more and more consumers receive [e-mails], they will come to expect a certain degree of power over who's communicating with them."
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