Personalization or intrusive irritation

Personalization or intrusive irritation? Sure personalization can save us time and effort looking for what we want to buy. It can remind us when we abandon our shopping carts with items left in them; it can ensure we top up our washing powder when we are ordering our weekly shopping online; it could also attempt to remind us we may need to buy suntan cream for our trip to the Bahamas next Tuesday.

We are all aware that these features are just the icing on the cake and we need to take a step back to consider the longer term.

When using the behavioural marketers’ toolbox we need to use restraint, there are potential drawbacks and annoyances for customers. Understanding the implications of not taking a strategic approach for the longer term is crucial to success.

I was recently reading a new Stanford Graduate School of Business paper by Professor Pedro Gardete and Professor Yakov Bart from Northeastern University. After building a mathematical model using game theory, they examined various advertising scenarios.

An example used by Prof Gardete, a person was looking for a prom dress and then subsequently had an advert pop up for a prom dress, after clicking this advert the potential customer was disappointed that they not only sold prom dresses but lots of other types of dresses, ruining their highly targeted advert and costing them a sale. Concluding the highly targeted ads were less persuasive, as consumers worry they are exploited by companies in possession of their data.

A recent study by eMarketer found 1/4 of internet users in the US; nearly 70 million people will use technology to block ads during 2016. Ad Blockers are a serious threat to publishers and media companies revenues, some publishers have even taken them to court for extortion. Others are asking visitors to allow ads on sites to load, or offering ad-free versions of websites at a cost.

Consumers hate not having the power to be left alone and to not have control over their personal information. These privacy concerns are the main causes of irritation online for most people.

The Personalized Internet

Since the arrival of the internet, people have been continuously searching for the next best thing. The email was considered ‘the next big thing’ in its early days, and this tool dominated our use of the web. However, as we became familiar with email and grew to understand how it could fit within our lives, we began to wonder if there was somewhere else that would enhance our experience even more. Websites began to develop to answer this question; dedicated sites catered for specific needs such as online shopping or social networking.

This continual quest continued until eventually, we were presented with something totally different – personalized advertisements that targeted your individual preferences based on what you had previously viewed online.

Content and ad delivery are two other causes of unhappiness for consumers. Ads pop up too many times, content is over hyped and low quality ads or too many ads appear at once. We are now subconsciously ignoring online ads the same as we do now in the material world. We have become sceptical of the business and in some cases avoid the brand altogether; especially if we are interrupted at a key point during our screen time.

Over targeted adverts are becoming meaningless to consumers and companies will continue to lose out if they use these outdated manipulative tactics.

We need to play the strategic long game, becoming the shop assistant who answers questions about a product when asked and is not pushy.

To conclude, we need seamlessly delivered high quality advertisements; visitors should know exactly what data a website gathers and be able to make a conscious choice how it is used. This will then begin to build trust and strengthen the all important brand loyalty over the longer term rather than eroding its foundations.

With GDPR coming into play in May we are ideally placed to be giving some serious thought to our data driven approach or face the penalties!

If you would like some assistance with your data driven approach to marketing please message me here

This was originally written for IBMs Think Marketing.

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