Be intentional, not creepy (Part 1)

Websites are awash in data – more data than ever before. And websites want to use that data to create relevant experiences.

Today, a website can use information you’ve shared about who you are, where you are from, what you’ve bought before and more to provide superior service.  Who doesn’t appreciate being offered a product that enhances something we already purchased?  Or finding out that you can pick up a product near your home if you need it today?  That’s great service.

And yet many brands also want to use data to attract customers.  This can be, as the New York Times pointed out, creepy.  When a customer walks into a Neiman Marcus store, the associate can assess, in mere seconds, a great deal about that consumer’s possible profile.  But it is by having a short conversation, that the associate can identify the consumer’s intent and deliver superlative service. They don’t guess. They ask and interpret. And the consumer is knowingly providing information. When Target identifies that an in-store consumer is likely in the early stages of pregnancy, they don’t base it on age or geography (although gender likely matters), they have observed behaviors that indicate an intention – to discover products for pregnant women and babies.

Do you really know what I want?

How do you ask and interpret intent for an online consumer who hasn’t yet discovered your site? You need to ensure your offerings are visible to all your potential customers by aligning your products and services with their intentions.  This requires understanding all the possible intentions that your products and services could address and predicting the most likely intentions – from head (very obvious) to tail (more individualized).  BloomReach’s Big Data Marketing Applications do this at scale for the long tail.  Online marketers need to collect intent indicators – and use the consumer’s indication of intent to offer compelling and not creepy service. Intent has little to do with age, gender, income or geography – although that information is readily available from data targeting providers.  Intent has to do with actions, queries, clicks and behaviors.

To start the conversation about intent with a prospective customer online, first you have to ensure they can discover if you are relevant to their intent.  This means speaking the consumer’s language, making content easy to navigate for crawlers and consumers and learning from the behaviors and happiness of previous consumers with similar intent signals. And as consumers’ intents change or your offerings evolve, you have to continuously analyze these intent signals and adapt to them.  It’s Big Data – the big data that matters to offer a relevant and compelling experience the very first time a consumer engages with your brand. BloomReach’s Big Data Marketing Applications collect and use this data to create a better user experience on a website and better results for consumers and businesses across the web.

In the next posts in this four part series, we’ll discuss how online marketers can maximize the impact of big data in targeting, advertising, onsite recommendations and remarketing without damaging their brands through creepiness. We will discuss the following distinctions and their ramifications:

  1. Psychographics vs. Demographics to find the true target
  2. Context, Recency and Privacy in the pursuit of relevance
  3. Everything in moderation – don’t over do it