It’s difficult not to feel unnerved when you browse or shop for products online only to find ads and promotions for identical or similar items pop up later on your desktop and smartphone. Feel like you’re being watched? Click or tap to find out how to tell if someone is bugging or tracking you.
While it’s annoying and creepy, you can easily ignore this type of intrusion on your devices. Brands aren’t stopping with ads, though. According to a CNBC report, marketers and companies have taken this technology to another level.
That’s right — some companies aren’t content with pop-up ads. They prefer a full-frontal attack with a phone call as a way to entice consumers. Here’s the inside scoop on this new marketing tactic and how you can beat these companies at their own game.
It’s easier than you think
Receiving a phone call from a company shortly after visiting its website or viewing its products can leave consumers dazed and confused, questioning how companies get their phone numbers in the first place.
But the practice of tracking one’s online behavior or determining an online visitor’s identity is not new, and it’s easier than you might think for a company to obtain your phone number.
How it works
Many websites employ third-party technology to track real-time consumer behavior. A bit of embedded code can tell a company where its visitors are coming from, what devices they’re using and more.
But that explanation doesn’t mean users are pleased. Consumers have taken to Twitter to express their concerns and frustrations.
One man tweeted his experience of a call from StubHub after he left basketball tickets in his online cart without buying them. He was initially surprised StubHub called and promptly disappointed they offered him a mere 5% off the tickets if purchased immediately.
Twitter is no angel, either. The company is also guilty of using your phone number and email to sell targeted ads.
Online furniture seller Wayfair recently made headlines after a comedy writer took to Twitter to complain after receiving a call from the company while she was browsing its website.
Wayfair says it’s testing out a new program to identity online shoppers and call them to offer assistance. They say the calls aren’t based on real-time site activity, though.
Before you picket Wayfair, know that this practice is widespread and not exclusive to retailers. Facebook, StubHub, Google and LinkedIn, among others, rely on trackers for their marketing and retargeting efforts. Here are a few ways companies collect your info:
- You shared your phone number in an online form on a site that contained a tracker.
- Your info was gathered via an identity-resolution company. These companies can connect a website visitor, whether logged in or anonymous, to a phone number.
As a consumer, you have options that can help reduce or eliminate this practice. One free Google Chrome extension, Ghostery, allows you to view and block the tracking code websites use to spy on you.
These steps can also keep advertisers and companies off your back:
- Browse the internet via incognito mode
- Clear your cookies
- Use a VPN when you’re online shopping
- Ignore all unknown phone numbers
- Be cautious of what information you enter online, even on trusted sites
Even if you take all these steps, there’s no guarantee you will escape the clutches of marketers and companies, online or offline. They need and want your data and will continue to devise unique and, most likely, creepy ways to do so.