3 Smart Tips for Using Customer Data: Striking the Balance between Personal, Creepy, and Annoying

June 25, 2012 at 11:16 am | Posted in Analytics, Digital Marketing, Relevant Content | 2 Comments
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Technology has provided web marketers with ways to discover more data about their visitors than ever before. Data is power, for sure, but the question becomes, how will you use this power and to what end? As marketers experiment with data-driven methods of reaching their target audience with the right offer at the right time and customers begin drawing lines in the sand about just how far they want companies to go with these efforts, we’re learning some important lessons about personalized marketing and defining what’s helpful, what’s annoying, and what’s creepy.

Don’t Put All Your Cards on the Table

Just because you know or think you know something about your customer doesn’t mean you have to tell them. Know when to hold back to avoid being annoying, creepy, or just plain wrong. Take for example, Target’s efforts to “target” soon-to-be-mothers based on purchase patterns. As you may recall, one teen’s father complained about the company insulting his daughter by sending her baby coupons in the mail only to later acknowledge that his daughter was in fact expecting. In this case, Target had accurately predicted its customer’s condition and sent her relevant offers, but at what expense?

Don’t Personalize for Products Alone

It’s not always about the sale. Sometimes, it’s about the experience. Have you ever researched a product online, went to the store and purchased a product as a result of this research, and then spent the next few days trying desperately to ignore the onslaught of online advertisements for the product you already bought? We’ve all been there, and we can probably all agree that this type of heavy product pitching is downright annoying. What if instead of trying to make a quick sale, companies offered helpful advice and relevant content instead? An article about photography tricks, for instance, would be relevant to someone who has been researching cameras, whether or not they had already made a purchase. Offering up relevant content that’s helpful and not just pitchy can pay off for companies in the long run. If the web user benefits from the company now by learning some cool picture taking-tips, then he may just return the favor a few months later when he’s looking for a tripod or other accessory.

Be Inconspicuous

But being sneaky is tantamount to being creepy, right? Not always. Sometimes, being inconspicuous in your personalization efforts is a good thing. This is something Target learned from their pregnancy promotion. After the incident, the company reworked its strategy and decided to send a variety of coupons to customers they had identified as expecting rather than just offers directly related to their “big” news. That way, the recipients would view the coupons as randomly compiled rather than personally prepared. The same results are accomplished, but without the creep factor.

Perhaps most importantly, rely on the tried-and-true marketing principle of simply putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. As you’re making elaborate plans for how to use all that big data, always ask yourself how you would respond if you were the target of these personalized campaigns. If the thought provokes goose bumps or leaves a bad taste in your mouth, then it may be a sign that you need to revise your strategy.

How are you using customer data to personalize your marketing campaigns? Share your successes and hiccups in the comments section.

Efi Rodik
Co-Founder & CEO
Relevantor LLC

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