Developers, if you want more users don’t ask for too much too soon

Irresponsible developers have made users wary of connecting Web and mobile applications to social networks, and as a result, some developers are watching their conversions plummet. Add to this an all-time high of paranoia about online privacy among the general population, as more information about the NSA’s tracking program surfaces, on top of frequent breaches of trust by other third-party apps. Path, Snapchat and Bang with Friends have given us some perfect examples in the past year alone.

Giving apps access to personally identifiable information (PII) is supposed to be for one reason – to improve app functionality and the user experience. But a suspicious amount of applications want access to data that is completely irrelevant to the functionality of the app itself, or asks for permissions that blatantly cross lines. I believe a new generation of apps will be built on trust, and some developers will begin to make trust a true point of differentiation for user acquisition and conversion. So … do your users trust you, or not?

Asking for permission is asking to be trusted.

Express PermissionSay your app’s marketing campaign gets your app 100 hard-earned visits. Out of those, 20 people clicked connect… but only 10 actually installed it. Why? At this stage, the developer is asking for a lot of trust. They’re asking for permission. Think about it: basic info, profile info, access to friends, access to friends’ posts, posting on your behalf, access to your location, work history, and so on. This isn’t a light request by any means. For some reason, a lot of developers still think they can get away with overstepping their bounds – but consumers are becoming more cautious.

Through our own research, we’ve seen developers increase their conversions instantly, sometime as much as 8 percent, by assuring their users they were trustworthy by taking actions that tend to follow these guidelines:

Avoid surprises: There’s nothing an app user will hate more than going to their Facebook or Twitter page, to see you’ve been posting on their behalf without their knowledge. In most circles, this is called spam. Show a preview of any posts before you post in a users name, and whatever you do, don’t publicly expose any info you gained unless you’re 100 percent sure the user is aware of it, and approves it first.

Align permissions with value: Only request permissions that are aligned with the features you offer. Ditch the concept of “we might need this permission one day.” Don’t ask for friends’ work history if you’re a horoscope app. This will raise eyebrows, and make users assume you’re selling this information, spamming their contacts or worse.

Build trust gradually: Don’t expect people who just met you to trust you on the offset, regardless of how pervasive you think your brand is. Build trust gradually. Don’t give consumers a reason to back out of using your app because your permissions seem questionable. Facebook says that asking for more than four permissions will significantly decrease the number of installs your app gets.

Don’t store or save your users’ data forever: Unless your users understand that you plan to save their data from the beginning, do not store their data on servers permanently. Be transparent about your data retention policies. Also, always be able to remove user info if requested to do so, and give your users a choice upfront. A lot of developers store and then sell their users’ PII. Go for it – but don’t expect your users to trust you.

Know your permissions: Understand exactly what permissions bother your users most, and then give them a reason to grant those permissions to you. Give them a clear and concise explanation on why you need that data. Help them understand why your permissions matter, and remind them that they’re safe.

Be customer service oriented: Give your users an easy way to ask questions about the app or its permissions, why you’re collecting their data, and what you plan to do with it. Listen to their feedback. This also means always giving your user base a heads up if permissions change or if you plan on adding new ones. Guarantee that you won’t sneak new, unwanted permissions by them in a routine update.

Once you’ve got someone’s attention on your app, getting them to agree with your permissions is the biggest hurdle to installation. Developers who give a clear depiction of permissions and true choice to their users will see their conversions quickly rise. I believe a new generation of app consumers will demand transparency in privacy policies and personal data management, and that the top apps in the app store will get there due to honesty and trust before utility or entertainment value.

Olivier Amar is the CEO of MyPermissions.