As consumers, we’re increasingly attracted to websites that ask for less information, not more. Imagine your hair trimmer is not doing the job it used to do when it was brand new. Should you buy a new one? Of course not, let’s get a blade replacement instead. Often, such parts are not available from your usual ecommerce sites. After searching and comparing prices through websites, you find a good deal on an online shop. However, you’ve never heard of this shop before, but it looks trustworthy. Once the part is added to your basket, you proceed to the checkout and what you see makes you cringe: a long form that asks not only for your name, email and postal address — which would be reasonable—but also age, gender, phone number, marital status, and date of birth as mandatory fields.

The result is simple: you close that browser tab and go to another shop. These days, increasingly more online businesses realise that the opposite is more likely to result in a sale: they ask for as little data as possible.

From a business perspective, there is a solution that not only removes the user’s pain but also provides more in-depth customer analytics over time. Its name? Progressive profiling.

What is progressive profiling?

Progressive profiling is a technique in which a business collects users’ data incrementally, during different touchpoints of the customer’s journey. The goal is to build and constantly update a profile for every user, to enable a customised user experience. Let’s bear in mind that the customer journey starts from the first visit (unknown, anonymous user), next becoming a customer, continuing to upselling, and only ending if the user account is deleted.

To convert and retain customers, a company aims to go from knowing almost nothing about the user, to building a detailed user profile. All this can be accomplished without violating the GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act, or other similar stringent regulations.

Building (and maintaining) a user profile takes several steps, which may include forms to download an asset, user registration, questions with an incentive, surveys, etc.

How an identity provider can enrich user attributes and fulfil better progressive profiling. User logs into account with bank authentication (BANKID). The user then consents to the information transfer.

Benefits of progressive profiling

Progressive profiling offers benefits for both users and companies. Let’s review the strongest.

  1. Improved user experience
    1. Reduced customer frustrations. Asking users for their data all at once is not only time-consuming but perceived as aggressive by most people. I think all of us has had such an experience, got annoyed and decided not to come back to that service. By asking for information bit by bit, and with the right incentive in place, users will be much more willing to provide additional information.
    2. Improve the onboarding process. If a visitor decides to create a user account for your service, you will have some of their data already available, so instead of asking again you can shorten the user registration. Alternatively, after account setup, you can ask a couple of questions to enrich that user profile. But keep those questions optional so they don’t feel obliged to share that data with you.
    3. Personalise the buyer’s journey. As a result of building a good user profile, your company will be able to personalise every step of the customer journey.
  2. Increased security and data protection
    1. Minimise the impact of a potential data breach. In the unfortunate event of a data breach, the less data a company has in its data repository, the smaller the damage. Don’t collect data you don’t need, and progressive profiling helps you achieve that from the start.
    2. Be an ally for security awareness. Another reason people don’t like putting information in forms is because they are becoming more aware that the data can be misused. Show that your company is careful about its customers’ personal data.
  3. Marketing benefits
    1. Helps update and strengthen user profiles. Typically, a user profile is created at the time a person registers for a service. Within months, this data can become outdated. What if your company decides to launch a great campaign to send a gift or greetings card to your users, only to realise that more than half of your users’ postal addresses are empty, wrongly typed, or outdated? Well, not many of your customers will be delighted as you expected. Nobody wants to miss out on great experiences.
    2. Increased conversions. By collecting only information that is necessary and relevant to the customer experience at hand, the customers will be less likely to abandon your form or page and instead press the Submit button.

Keep it clear and simple

When presenting requests for more information, always present the reason for collecting the additional information in terms of the user benefits. Provide easy access to the relevant data processing and privacy policies.

Where possible, make the data collection as quick and easy as possible, such as structuring questions in a yes or no format, or a choice of 1 to 3 options for quick selection.

Why CIAM is better than marketing tools for progressive profiling

Most marketers talk about progressive profiling as merely a marketing topic and preach that the magic solution is buying an advanced marketing tool. From a marketing tools perspective, progressive profiling is often applied to leads, from a person’s first interaction through to becoming a customer. In this marketing world, it’s mostly about filling data in forms, sometimes surveys, in which the customers enter more personal data themselves. The purpose is to convert a form visitor to lead to customer. Progressive profiling is clearly advertised as an advanced feature in marketing tools, available only in premium plans or the exclusive products in the portfolio.

But is progressive profiling something that can be achieved with just a marketing tool? Not really. For progressive profiling to become magic, it needs a few spells of Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM).

From a CIAM systems perspective, progressive profiling is applied to registered users who can already log in to one or many services. A login session is the key here. Those users can be leads or converted customers.

Some advantages of using a CIAM solution for user profiling:

  1. Marketing tools can’t use attributes from an identity provider. As the user is never authenticated, data must always be entered by the user themselves. Instead, an authenticated user brings to the relying party (the service) at least a few attributes from the identity provider: first name, surname, email, country etc. The list depends on how the identity provider’s system administrator has configured its attribute release policies.
  2. You can use a user verification tool to improve the accuracy of a user’s data. If users enter personal attributes for themselves, how do we know if such data is accurate? When users authenticate with a high level of assurance method such as a national e-id, your service can add new verified attributes and correct inaccurate data.
  3. Profile differently based on the user’s level of assurance. If more than one authentication method is enabled in the login pages, the service can trigger different questions if the user is authenticated by social media or a bank-based authenticator app.
  4. Follow through devices. Marketing tools cannot add more data to the same user’s profile if this person has logged in with different devices. What if the user frequently switches between a laptop, tablet, mobile phone? The cookies are set up in the browser per device. Instead, an authenticated user will be the same regardless of which device is used. Your service can trigger progressive profiling at any touchpoints, whenever the right time comes.

Can marketing and CIAM join forces?

If at the time the user creates an account, this person already exists as a lead in the marketing automation platform (or mail automation), the user registration workflow – which is powered by the CIAM system — can make a backend call to synchronise the identity with the already collected data. With the user’s permission, it is also possible to link the new account to an existing browser history on a device, even if created before user registration or a logged in session. This allows wider insight into the same user’s behaviour across all their devices.

All in all, progressive profiling is a powerful technique that helps companies in both their business and security goals. The best way of achieving progressive profiling is putting CIAM into the equation. To discover more about how Ubisecure CIAM can enhance your progressive profiling, get in touch.