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The reasons why users reject cookies and what they can teach us

In our previous insights post we took a look at the effects of cookie control on traffic and how to claw some of that potentially lost data back by encouraging interaction on the cookie banner.

However, that doesn’t really solve the root issue when it comes to understanding the relationship between cookies and users and their likelihood to accept or reject. To get to grips with that it might first be useful to consider how a user thinks when it comes to cookies.

To accept or not accept?

Of course everyone is different when it comes to their understanding of their digital footprint and indeed their levels of interest in it. So we’ve collated a few common responses to the question ‘Why do you reject cookies when asked?’ and looked to uncover some learnings you can take from each to better encourage a user to click ‘Accept’.

“I don’t know what cookies are so I’ll reject them as the safe choice”

This is a very common thought process. Users don’t trust that they understand the concept of cookies enough (or at all) in order for them to accept them. Saying ‘no’ is always the safe choice and indeed perhaps the wisest choice in the majority of cases when it comes to your digital security.

However, perhaps through educating users (without lecturing or fearmongering) we can look to build that trust. This could be achieved through clear and easy to understand information in the cookie banner itself plus an easily accessible link to more information on cookies (including basic information on what they actually are).

“This website looks dodgy, I don’t trust them with my data”

Trust was mentioned when we were discussing the general user’s lack of knowledge around what a cookie is, now trust comes into play when considering a user’s belief that a website will handle their data properly.

The remedy for this is simple - be a trustworthy website. OK, simple without perhaps being scientific. Of course, trustworthiness is not a defined metric but there are many things that can be implemented on a website which go a long way in convincing users; engaging design, quality content, responsive across device types (and many more).

“I’d be happy to give my consent for some types of cookies but not others, but the cookie controls don’t give me that ability to choose”

We have covered the potential thought processes of those users who are perhaps less familiar with cookies as a concept but there are of course also those that are very aware and mindful as to the purpose of cookies across the web. For these users, more detail and, crucially, choice is required.

To match this mindset we need to ensure that a user has the ability to accept and reject various logical groupings of cookies (e.g. analytical cookies, marketing cookies) rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. There also needs to be a level of detail to adjoining text - even listing the exact cookies affected - with signposts to wider cookie policy.

“This banner/pop up is annoying me so I’m going to reject to punish them”

We’ve all been there. You’re rushed, stressed and you need to make an enquiry or buy an item online and you’re met with a cookie banner that stops you in your tracks and seems impossible to get rid of - in those circumstances three seconds trying to find the ‘X’ button is a lifetime.

This is a little trickier to address as we’re dealing with a somewhat unpredictable foe - the human mind on any given day. However, applying strong UX/UI principles to the banner will ensure the user experience will be as intuitive as possible and prevent the need for a cookie-inspired ‘rage quit’. This also extends to general site performance - for example improving site speeds and reducing cumulative layout shift.

Marginal gains to maximise insights

Sometimes there’s nothing we can do when it comes to a user in convincing them to click yes in accepting cookies - habit and natural response is a hard nut to crack. However, just as when we adopt personas to get a better understanding of our users during site planning or in generating content, fully appreciating the various thought processes of our users when presented with a cookie banner will help us to maximise those users willing to give us their data and potential insights.