Websites applying opt-in consent mechanisms to comply with the EU E-privacy directive will have a hard time convincing users to accept cookies, as just 23% of respondents said they would be happy to say yes to cookies. 

One major issue with this directive is public awareness of what cookies are and what they do. Suddenly, web users will be seeing messages about cookies all over the place, accompanied with references to tracking, privacy etc. 

There is a need for education about cookies and online privacy in general, but that very process may be a turn off for many users. 

To gauge possible public reaction to the implementation of cookie compliance measures, we conducted an online survey, using the Toluna Quick survey tool. 

The survey accompanies the launch of our new report, The EU Cookie Law: A guide to compliance, which looks at how businesses can adapt to the directive. 

The results suggest that businesses have a lot of persuading to do in order to convey the benefits of the cookies they use on their websites, and to persuade users to opt-in, or at least not to opt-out. 

A note on the survey methodology

We asked 1,600 online respondents about their attitudes towards cookies and privacy, using the Toluna Quick survey tool. 

The survey was conducted online and therefore skews slightly towards regular web users rather than occasional online shoppers. 

In addition, only those respondents that said they know what a cookie is were asked the subsequent questions. This means that 1,067 respondents answered subsequent questions. 

Consumer awareness of cookies

That 69% of survey respondents are aware of what cookies are and why websites use them may cheer some marketers, but it still leaves a large chunk of web users that may react with puzzlement when they see messages about cookies and privacy on the website they visit. 

Also, as mentioned before, the survey was conducted online, and it can be assumed that respondents are slightly more web-savvy.

Do you know what an online cookie is and why websites use them?

Web users and cookie management

Do you regularly manage your cookie settings via your internet browser?

73% of respondents regularly manage their cookie settings using their browser, which is a surprisingly high number. 

This may mean that they are less likely to say yes to certain types of cookie, but also suggests that, if they aware of these browser functions, then consent mechanisms are unnecessary, at least for this portion of web users.

Will web users say yes to cookies? 

This is a big question for online businesses. If they are forced to apply consent mechanisms, then they would hope that they can persuade users to accept cookies. 

If a website asks for your permission to set cookies when you visit, would you be happy to say yes?

Only 23% are happy to say yes, while the 60% of maybes will need some convincing. Some 17% seem certain that they will not accept cookies at all. 

What would make users say no to cookies? 

From the answers we recieved, the decision to accept cookies or not will depend on the website asking the question. People are more likely to say yes on a website they know, giving well known brands an advantage over smaller sites. 

If stricter consent mechanisms are used, then trust will become a key factor. 

In addition 40% of respondents think cookies are bad for the web. This suggests that, for many people, they are associated with tracking, targeting and so on.

Are some cookies easier to sell to consumers than others? 

There are, of course, different types of cookies and it is likely to be easier to get user consent for some than others. 

What kinds of cookies would you be happy to consent to?

The kinds of cookies that most will accept are those that save shopping cart contents (60%), but analytics cookies (even when sold as helping to improve the experience) are only approved by 35%. 

The results suggest that cookies used for advertising purposes are going to be hard sell for websites. Over a fifth (21%) would be okay with cookies used to serve more relevant ads, but just 17% would approve of cookies used for targeting on third-party sites.

Cookie consent and user experience

If saying no to cookies means the website is not as easy to use, or parts of the site didn’t work as normal, would you:

A big part of the problem is that users don’t necessarily understand why cookies are so vital for online business. 

Just 26% say they would decide to consent to cookies if saying no meant a website was less usable, while 24% said they would soldier on, though this may change when they actually experience cookie-free websites. 

If 50% of web users do abandon the site due to a poorer web experience in the absence of cookies, then businesses will be hoping that their competitors have also implemented similar opt-in mechanisms.

Consumer concerns about online privacy

The aim of the EU Directive was to address real concerns about online privacy and the results of the survey suggest that the majority of web users share these concerns, with 77% saying they are concerned about privacy when browsing and buying online. 

Are you concerned about your privacy when browsing and buying online?

This answer raises a couple of questions: 

Who are these care-free people who have no concern about their privacy online? The data suggests that the 18 to 34 age group is the least concerned, but 72% still answered yes to this question. 

Are respondents bundling in concerns about fraud, malware and so on with concerns about how their data is used by the websites they visit? If so, then the answer may well be better education on how cookies are used.

The EU Cookie Law: A guide to compliance explains the legislation as far as it affects UK online businesses, sets out some practical steps that you can take towards compliance, as well as showing some practical examples of how websites can gain users’ consent for setting cookies.

Image credit: infoCarnivore