A recent Pew survey found that 68% of respondents “would not be okay” with targeted advertising, citing it as an objectionable invasion of privacy. A recent GigaOm article said that the number of users deleting cookies has nearly doubled in the past year.
Signs are growing that users are getting a little bit freaked out by the sense they are being watched. And for the analytics industry, this has to be an inflection moment.
For “big data” it may be even more of a problem, because the goal of big data is to try and know everything about the customer–but let’s stick to the more common form of digital analytics and see if this holds any lessons.
Naturally I think it does.
I think its about not chasing rainbows.
I think its about going back to understanding user trending behavior and improving your site based on observed behavior. Even with high cookie-deletion rate, you can still get a sense of what repeat visitors are looking at. Fact is, even small samples will reveal important patterns. What pages do they keep coming back to? How did they find you? What pages did they leave from? Where did they leave the funnel?
Microtargeting has two problems as I see it. One is, it alienates the consumer (or so a number of consumers say). Two is, it really isn’t all that efficient, at least not on the web. Consider that I know someone who has gotten “targeted” ads for braces, lingerie, boxing, and the Mittster. Consider also that the only reaction these ads got were howls of laughter. Wonderful!
The “dream” scenario where advertising is targeted to the individual in space, time and temperament really may turn out to be a nightmare after all. People may not like it so much–in fact, people may actively loathe it. And, its going to be really, really costly to get anywhere close to non-hilarious targeting as suggested above.
Of course it’s possible that the ROI may be justifiable due to the fact that for those users who are okay with it, the return may be massive. But that is pure conjecture at this point.
What I see is a rising tide of consumer resentment–not so much against being tracked, but being targeted.
Tracking and learning from user behavior is only going to be more important. We still haven’t gotten nearly as good at that as we think we have, and there’s lots of room for improvement before we’ve exhausted its possibilities.
Targeting may be a bridge too far. And a bridge unnecessary.
Broad targeting works quite well it seems–or has display advertising really been a bust for about a hundred years?
What is the ROI on big data? It might be a minus: expending lots of time and dollars, only to annoy your customer.
Or, targeting needs to get so good, and so sophisticated, that it stops being annoying. And who knows how much that might cost?