Coined in 2010 by design consultant Harry Brignull, dark patterns first referred to online market places building user interfaces that lead – or more realistically ‘trick’ – users into making decisions they might not otherwise make.
Ultimately, this duplicity came in the form of clever website UX design being selected to be intentionally deceptive, from the subtle – think of Google’s colourful, fun lettering representing a ‘safe space’ – to the blatant, an online shopping basket that automatically adds goods based on assumed intent.
In B2B marketing, it is within the data exchange process where companies can fall foul of dark patterns, especially with so many businesses in direct competition. As a user, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the various forms, opt-in/out pop-outs and data requests – best to hit ‘decline all’, right?
Well not quite. Aside from generating actionable leads, data is used to form personalised experiences online (account-based marketing being a good example). In an ideal world, the more data you share (who you are, what you are seeking, and when), the more relevant content and goods you will be served.
As Brignull said in an interview with TechRadar back in 2018: “UX design can be described as the way a business chooses to behave towards its customers.”
So unless there is transparency in data requests, you always run the risk of distrust. It should go without saying, but modern marketing, especially B2B, is about a value exchange, and that includes your data.
If a marketer can be upfront and open about what is on offer in return for information, then a company website can do the same without relying on dark patterns.
As far back as 2015, KoMarketing found that 69% of buyers indicated that “excessive form field requirements” would deter them from completing a contact form, with 65% stating they wouldn’t submit a form if “too much personal information” was required.
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However, this tide is turning. In 2018, The Direct Marketing Association released a fascinating study about data privacy and the customer, where they found the number of people who claimed to be happy with the amount of information they share was at 61%.
So given we are more accepting of the reciprocal nature of data exchange, honesty is key. After all, 88% of UK people in the same study claimed that transparency about how their data is collected and used is important when deciding to share information, while the number of respondents who viewed their personal data as an asset increased to 56%.
Businesses and consumers are savvy enough to know their data helps others. So here are some immediate steps you can take to improve this relationship in B2B marketing.
Offer relevant and useful content:
Content should always, where possible, come from a position of expertise. Industry specialists are to be valued, as they create the relevant, contextual and up-to-date content desired. There is more value to be gained from learning about your readership than over-commercialising the content.
Ultimately, content educates your audience to make smarter purchasing decisions. You can fuel content with SEO, helping you attract more leads through search engines, while it can be shared to enhance your social media strategy.
Deliver non-invasive ads:
User experience is more important than ever on websites and even within Google’s new algorithm (the Page Experience will rank usable sites higher, coming in 2021), nobody wants to be spammed or have their experience ruined by inescapable adverts.
Never underestimate just how many ads are served these days – the average person encounters between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every single day according to PPC Protect.
Websites should offer their audiences the content they want to see, when they want to see it. It saves your audience time and effort. In fact, 65% of B2B buyers say they’re likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t personalise communications to them according to the Direct Marketing Association.
Never store or share (unless explicitly requested) personal data:
You need to understand – and communicate – that data privacy matters and personal data belongs to the user. By only storing firmographic (company data), consented or submitted data or data that is publicly available, you are one step on the way to making it a two-way relationship.
[Main image Dragon Images / Shutterstock]