Thursday, September 4, 2008

How Will Consumers Respond to Suddenly Targeted Ads?

This week, RetailWire posted a story on Infosys' new "ShopperTrip360" for comment, and got back a lot of negative comments (myself included, I guess). You can read the description on RetailWire for what it is and what it does (registration is required). But the topic got me thinking, because a lot of the negative reaction came from people worried about privacy and consumer reaction to an invasion of privacy. Someone commented to me that if people only knew how much data is collected about them already, they would probably freak out about it - let alone the degree of tracking that the ShopperTrip360 proposes.

But the thing is, no one really does anything with the data - so no one REALLY notices how much data is collected. So what would happen if retailers really started earnestly using the masses of information they collect about consumers? For example, I get coupons in the mail from Target. For a long time, I just tossed them. 90% of what was in there didn't appeal to me. Then all of a sudden I got a coupon book that I thought was just great - about 2/3 of the offers were for things I buy. I was pleased - "They're paying attention to me!" I thought. But I also realized that it probably meant that Target was actually mining my purchase history to determine what offers to send me.

That's not too disturbing. Anyone who doesn't realize that this is what that loyalty card is really for is only fooling themselves. But if retailers started acting on data that customers didn't really realize they were collecting. If, for example, Target suddenly started sending me offers based on my online browsing history, the suddenness of that relevance might come off as creepy.

Am I really going anywhere with this? Only to say that despite an overwhelming desire to get more relevant with consumers, it probably doesn't hurt that we seem to be moving at incremental speed. Moving from mass to 1:1 overnight would probably just scare everyone away.

1 comment:

Howard Greenstein said...

Good set of thoughts. The Amazon 'recommendations for you' are based on what you've browsed and what you've bought - I constantly get baby toy recommendations, because I often buy gifts from Amazon, but my kids are no longer babies.
If they pulled info from other sites, yes, there's a creepy factor.
If people had a more transparent view of what was collected about them, and could even help retailers give them the right thing, creepy goes away, replaced by useful.
I've been watching this privacy thing since 1995 - still waiting for someone to do it correctly.