Past browsing does not indicate future purchase
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Doug Garnett’s blog.
After years of articles about personalization efforts falling short, perhaps it’s time we realize it’s not the fault of retailers; it’s a faulty idea.
The assumptions about delivering “meaningful” or “personalized” ads based on past browsing (or purchase) ignore human realities.
People have tons of interests and we shift between them quickly. Even if I searched for a trash can last week, there are many reasons that ads about trash cans won’t be personal or meaningful this week. Something is only “personal” for an instant of time. As soon as the second-hand ticks to the next hash mark, it’s no longer personal.
The problem is made worse because online shopping is more about “buying” — not “shopping.” We go to the web to buy, and quite often do so very quickly. As a result, by the time algorithms see that I bought a trash can online and decide to send me ads about them, any shopping interest I have is for something other than trash cans. And it’s highly likely by then what I’m doing on the web isn’t shopping-related at all — my mind is no longer in that space.
Yes, perhaps there are enthusiast categories that I search (say, fly-fishing supplies). Except, I’m human. While I might want to look at fly-fishing stuff today on a coffee break, tonight I’ll need to buy a staple for the household and tomorrow I’ll order a new clamp for some work I do in the garage.
So, when your agency’s algorithms decide something makes an ad (or email or product recommendation) “relevant,” it’s highly likely they’re wrong. You run a very high risk of pissing me off and damaging your brand.
That said, online direct response marketers do find that digital retargeting is often a cost-effective way to generate online sales.
For every 1000 retargeted ads they feed, a few go to people who are interested and maybe one of those buys. These marketers don’t really care that their ads were irrelevant or meaningless to over 900 of the people who saw them — as long as the cost per order is right.
If we take care, there are great options for advertising online. Seeing them takes putting a critical eye on what we’re told are “common sense” assumptions about targeting.
- Past Browsing Does Not Indicate Future Purchase – Doug Garnett
- Retailers can make personalization work – RetailWire
- Reading The Fossil Record: Why Data And Machine Learning Tell Us Less Than We Think – Doug Garnett
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree that basing targeting on online browsing and purchase history is highly limited as a personalization method? Where do you see the value of browsing and online purchase data in marketing efforts?