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Retail & eCommerce Archive

How Bow Ties And “Adverstalking” Might Kill Online Marketing

The worst mistake I ever made online was searching for a bow tie.

In a world where credit card numbers and identities are being stolen en masse, that probably seems pretty innocent. Outside of the occasional danger of credit card fraud, online shopping is usually a fairly safe activity. Unless you happen to be shopping for a bow tie.

Let me explain. Several months ago I searched online for a bow tie to get an idea of design and price. Later that day, I went to purchase one in a store because I had waited until an unreasonable last minute and needed one right away. A day later the adverstalking started.

Adverstalking = Being constantly targeted online by advertising and promotions for products you searched for but did not purchase.

In my case, the adverstalking consisted of 3 weeks of non stop targeted ads about bowties and formal wear that would show up on multiple sites that were all syndicating ads. Currently, I’m experiencing the same type of adverstalking from a hotel group in Dubai after a single search for hotels in the region for an upcoming trip.

Yet what I (and many consumers) might call “adverstalking” actually has a different name in the online marketing world. We marketers call it retargeting. And retargeting solves a big marketing need to reach highly qualified consumers who searched for a particular product online but chose not to purchase. So, as the research shows, if you can present this person with a targeted ad for a product similar to what they searched – you are much more likely to convert them to purchase. And the numbers show that it works.

So why is adverstalking such a problem if people are buying based on it?  There are three fundamental issues:

  1. No context in real life – In my case, I had already purchased the product in question and was highly unlikely to buy another. So all the marketers paying a premium for retargeting were wasting their time and money – because I was almost 100% unlikely to purchase no matter how great their product or price was. Now multiply this wastage by how many other consumers may be in a post-purchase situation where they have already made a purchase in real life or on another site.
  2. Fuels privacy paranoia – One of the trends from my 2014 trend report was on “privacy paranoia” – the increasing fear consumers have of how their data is being collected and used by companies and governments online. Adverstalking fuels this paranoia by offering a highly visible example of how browsing behaviour is being tracked and used. The more paranoid consumers are about personal data, the less likely they are to continue to share it or trust the web.
  3. Reducing trust in browsing and discovery – The biggest issue is that there may be unexpected behavioural toll from adverstalking as well. Imagine if you knew that every time you walked into a retail store and happened to pick up an item, you’d get ads nonstop for weeks after touching the product inviting you to buy it. It might cause you to browse and discover new products more hesitantly, or not at all.

The forgotten truth is that consumers don’t want to buy everything they look at online. Adverstalking assumes they do.

So the next time you consider launching a big retargeting effort – make sure you have a simple way to avoid turning into an adverstalker in the process. Give your customers a mute button or another way to opt out. Let them turn down your follow up gracefully – instead of being forced to ignore a barrage of retargeted ads promoting something they are highly unlikely to buy.

And if you happen to sell formal wear – don’t forget about last minute buyers like me. By the time you’re retargeting and adverstalking us – we already bought our bow ties out of desperation somewhere else.

Why Most Trends Don’t Matter (And 15 New 2014 Trends That Do!)

Why Most Trends Don’t Matter (And 15 New 2014 Trends That Do!)

If you believe the typical trend declarations for 2014 – this is going to be the year of big data, wearable devices, and ubiquitous tablets. These are the facts we have heard over the past two months presented as big insights for the coming year. There are only a few problems with these so called trends, and others like them:…Read More >>

How To Be Kinder To Retail Workers This Holiday Season

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3 Ways Dumb Phones Might Save Nokia

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What 7 Masters Of Persuasion Can Teach You About Behavioral Marketing

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This past weekend one of the first ever conferences on consumer psychology and behavior focusing on marketing, sales and business strategy quietly took place in Stamford, Connecticut.  Before the September craziness of business events and corporate summits … Behaviorcon was intentionally different.  Created by best selling author Ramit Sethi and marketing and branding advisor Michael Fishman – the event brought together a…Read More >>

How Do Big Brands Answer 16 Essential Social Media Questions?

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The “Ballbarrow” was never really a product destined for greatness. Replacing a wheel in a traditional wheelbarrow with a ball hardly qualifies as a groundbreaking technological innovation. But it does solve a problem. Great inventions usually do. And when James Dyson first created and produced his Ballbarrow, it was a hit with gardeners seeking an alternative that wouldn’t leave wheel…Read More >>

10 Smart Ways TurboTax Helps Users Suffer Less

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TurboTax is like the financial equivalent of anesthesia before a surgery … you know you are about to do something painful, but at least you can suffer a bit less.  Yesterday was tax day in America, and for millions of users of the most popular tax software – it was a little easier to get this necessary chore out of the…Read More >>

Why Simplicity Saved Apple, But Couldn’t Save JCPenney

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Simplicity always wins. If there is one lesson the modern business world teaches us, it is that complexity kills and simplicity wins. Apple, Flip Camera, Twitter, Uber, Walmart — all are examples of companies that owe their success at least in part to their ability to simplify a service or product to an extreme level.  I have written often about…Read More >>

7 Ways Millionaire Self Help Gurus Make More Money Than Social Media Experts

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Last week no one cared what my Twitter name was – and I was thrilled about that.  At dozens of social media centric events, the Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or Pinterest question has become the de facto proof of purchase. People write their Twitter names on their nametags. They try desperately to distill their own social credibility into a…Read More >>