Does Re-targeting Show a Lack of Respect for Our Customers?

Stalking Them on the Web May Not Be Good for Your Brand

By Published on .

As a professional in the ad industry, you're likely already familiar with the practice of re-targeting. Consumers visit a site and shop for a product, and maybe even put the product in a shopping cart. And then they leave. For the days that follow, marketers follow this consumer and serve her up with banner ads that feature that very product that she "abandoned."

The first time this happens to you as a consumer, it's a little bit creepy. I once had a sweater from stalk me for about a week. It was annoying, even though I work in the industry and understood what was happening. Imagine customers who can't comprehend how this information was shared, or how these ads continue to follow them. Advertisers love this practice as it allows for incredibly efficient media buys and aggressive follow through to customers who might have been on the fence with a purchase.

For consumers, it feels like stalking.

Enter Zappos. The lovable online retailer also participates in re-targeting, but like everything they do, they've put their customer first. The Zappos love and care for their customer is now legendary, and everything they do, they hold up to this standard. When they implemented a re-targeting campaign, they did so in a Zappos-esque way. Each ad that 's served up includes a prominent link "Why am I seeing these ads?" Users who click through see a detailed explanation titled "Some People Prefer Rainbows, and Others Prefer Unicorns," which also gives users the option to opt-out of these types of ads with a single click. Wow. That's re-targeting with soul.

Consumers have given us grand freedom to engage in a myriad of ways, and with a plethora of information about themselves. If we use this data in a way that makes customers feel creeped out, then we risk the very access to this information that we enjoy. We see people get riled up about privacy on Facebook, yet most have no real understanding of what Facebook is capturing and sharing with marketers, or how this information is ultimately utilized. Where does this mistrust and worry come from? Marketers have crossed the line, and taken advantage of their customers, and in doing so have created a rift in our trust with those customers. We've created our own industry brand baggage by exploiting what was given to us by consumers. It's time that we learn from what Zappos is doing, and take a more responsible, friendly approach.

Too often, campaigns are created and tactics are implemented that don't ask the simple question "How will this make my customer feel?" We're quick to consider the numbers, the CPMs, the projected results. But what about customer perception and attitudes toward our media methods? This should be the last stop (or maybe even the first stop) of every tactic, prior to implementation.

It's easy to see how agencies have become potentially insensitive to their target 's feelings. Most agencies are a few steps removed from the consumer. They deal with a marketing person, who likely pulls research from people who interface with people who talk with actual customers. So it's easy for an agency to dismiss or not even consider the customer sentiment about the delivery method, and focus instead on creative messaging, returns and click-throughs.

Any retailer understands the importance of customer trust and experience. Retailers know their customers by first name -- and consider their relationship something worthy of genuine respect. You'd never see a sole proprietor target one of his customers inappropriately, because he looks that customer in the face at every transaction. Every marketing plan could benefit from this level of customer compassion. When you implement your next media strategy and creative campaign, take a step back and ask "Could I look my target in the eye, and feel good about the tactics that I'm suggesting for the brand that 's marketing to them?"

Darryl Ohrt Darryl Ohrt is a former punk rocker and chief contributor to the greatest blog in all of the land, BrandFlakesForBreakfast. While his official title is president, his business card says he's "Prime Minister of Awesome" at Humongo, a Source Marketing company. Darryl knows just enough to be dangerous. He's on the internet right now, playing, investigating and exploring. Watch out.
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