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Jun 12

Don’t be creepy! How to connect with your customer without overdoing it

We’ve all said something along the lines of, “They’re listening!”, when we see an ad that sells us something we were just talking about. It’s no surprise to anyone that being served highly personalized ads for experiences you’ve had outside of your search and social activity is unnerving, especially to those who aren’t aware of how it works. With GDPR in full swing, and the stories surrounding Facebook + data, consumers are looking for ways to become better educated — which means, if respectful and effective advertising is your jam, this is your time to shine!

There’s a fine line between being connected with and being creeped out by personalized digital ads, and oftentimes, the negatives outweigh the positives for the brands involved. For example, Urban Outfitters rescinded the gender-based personalization of its homepage after customers complained. In an interview with the Times, marketing executive Dmitri Siegel, who was in charge of the initiative, said “We saw customer frustration at being targeted outweigh any benefit.”

Social scientists who have conducted extensive research on the topic prove that, besides the obvious, there are reasons we feel iffy about such personalization. In a study by Harvard Business Review, a list was collected of common ways in which Google and Facebook use consumers’ personal data to generate ads. They then asked consumers to rate how acceptable they found each method to be and, employing a statistical technique called factor analysis, identified clusters of practices that consumers tended to dislike, which mirrored certain things that make people uncomfortable offline:

  • Obtaining information outside the website on which an ad appears, comparable to talking behind someone’s bac

  • Deducing information about someone from analytics, comparable to inferring or assuming information

When done right, tailoring an advertisement just enough can increase conversion rates by 5.5 times in the short-term, and help to build customer loyalty in the long-term. And thankfully, there are some surefire ways to connect with your customer while avoiding taking it too far. A few suggestions:

  1. First stop: frequency capping. The standard frequency cap — and the automatic setting in Choozle — is three impressions served every eight hours, which should keep creepiness at bay. If you want to be extra safe, Media Strategist Julie Stone recommends the following: If it’s a CTR goal, block “below the fold” and set your frequency cap to serve one impression every 24 hours. If it’s an accelerated campaign (i.e. a limited time offer), set your frequency to no more than one impression per hour.

  2. Even if you’re serving up the same product, download, etc. in your ads, no one wants to see the exact same ad multiple times for the entire duration of your campaign. By changing up your creative, landing page, and messaging as often as possible (at least every 90 days), you’ll be giving your audience a continuously fresh experience, resulting in positive outcomes.

  3. Build trust. This goes far beyond not showing ads to an audience more than nine times per day — it also includes making sure the information in your ad matches up exactly with what’s on the landing page or your website (pricing, information needed from the consumer, etc). You may get more clicks on an ad by displaying a great deal, but if the outcome is different than expected, you can almost certainly bet on a lost customer.

If you’re unsure of the level of comfortability your customers have with being targeted or retargeted, ask them! Surveys are a tried and true way to get inside the mind of a consumer, and bonus: The trust you’ll build by actually caring about their preferences will shed a positive light on your data usage and targeting practices.

About The Author

Kate Marshall is the Marketing & Communications Manager at Choozle, a programmatic advertising technology company based in Denver, CO. In her role at Choozle, Kate leads efforts in content marketing including writing for and managing the company's blog, social media, and various SEO and PR strategies. Outside of the tech world, Kate is a certified yoga instructor and uses her personal brand to get real about mental health and wellness.

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