One of the most important innovations in the rapidly developing world of e-commerce is the ability of companies and consumers to develop personalized relationships. Companies are better able to understand their customers wants and desires, and consumers may now receive online advertisements for products that reflect their interests and buying habits.

This survey, conducted by Privacy & American Business, demonstrates that a significant majority of Internet users want online advertisements to be personalized. Consumers desire information that is tailored to their needs and are willing to provide their buying preferences in order to receive personalized ads.

Privacy & American Business asked a representative sample of Internet users a series of questions about online personalized marketing in July of 1999, using Opinion Research Corporation's weekly CARAVAN survey. Four hundred seventy four respondents identified themselves as Internet users, representing 92 million adults.

Sponsorship of the survey was provided by DoubleClick, Inc.

Key Messages of the Survey
" A majority of Internet users (61%) say they would be positive toward receiving banner ads tailored to their personal interests rather than receiving random ads. This represents about 56 million adult users interested in such personalization.
" More than two-thirds of Internet users (68%) say they would provide personal information in order to receive tailored banner ads, if notice and opt out are provided. This represents about 63 million adult users.

Willingness to Have Personal Information Used for Ads
Since personalization of ads requires collecting user information, the survey explored what Internet users are willing to do to provide such individualized data or have it acquired from other sources.

The survey tested five ways that individual information about Internet users could be collected for personalization. In each case, the survey tested the effects of providing notice and opt-out choice on respondent attitudes. In every one of the five methods, a majority of respondents said the collection of individualized information for presenting banner ads to them would be acceptable.

" Fifty-eight percent of Internet users, or 53 million users, would agree to having their visits to web sites used to personalize banner ads to them, if notice and opt-out were provided.

" Fifty-one percent of users would agree to having their on line purchase information used to personalize banner ads to them, if notice and opt-out choice were provided.

" Fifty-three percent of users would be willing to have their off line purchase information from catalogs and stores used to personalize banner ads to them, if notice and opt-out choice were provided.

" Fifty-two percent would agree to having their off and on line purchasing information combined to personalize banner ads to them, if notice and opt-out choice were provided.

" Fifty-three percent of respondents, representing about 49 million Internet users, say they would agree to the combination of personal information, web site visits, and on/off line purchases to personalize banner ads to them, if notice and choice were provided.

Privacy Policies Internet Users Consider Essential
When presented with key privacy policies promoted by leading business and industry associations as well as consumer and privacy advocates, very heavy majorities of Internet Net users said the following privacy assurances would be either “absolutely essential” or “very important” if they were to participate in tailored ad programs.

" Seventy-one percent – use the collected information only for presenting tailored ads and always give users an opt-out choice.

" Seventy-nine percent – use of the information only by the banner ad company and never sell or give it to other companies.

" Eighty-three percent – allow participating users to see their profile if they wish and remove any items they do not want in the profile.

Activities of Internet Users
American consumers are not only discriminating critics of personalized marketing, they are also avid consumers. Almost 6 of 10 (58%) – representing 53 million adults – say they are interested in receiving information from businesses about new products or serves.

Given their enthusiasm for personally tailored banner ads, it is not at all surprising that a significant number of American consumers have experience as Net shoppers. A sizable minority of Net users – 37%, representing about 34 million Internet users – report making online credit card purchases.

Likewise, half of all Internet users say they have clicked on banner ads while online, and about 12.5 million Internet users (27% of overall users) report having made purchases once they arrived at the hot-linked web site.