There’s plenty of data available on online consumers, but using this knowledge responsibly is the real challenge.
So a family friend makes it as a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals, hooray, and you Google or Yahoo search the team a few times to find out how he’s doing. Next thing you know, everything Bengals crops up on your news page. Who’s new on the coaching team? What’s the latest on the injured linebacker? Who are the Bengals free agents?
Really? When it gets right down to things that matter to you, who cares?
Then you search out some orthopedics specialists for a tender knee. Suddenly, you’re getting informational Facebook messages about knee replacement specialists in your hometown. Holy bed pan, the sawbones are clamoring for your business even before the final diagnosis!
This is data-driven advertising – or messaging – at work. In the future, experts say, you won’t have to wade through a scrapheap of detergent ads, charity appeals, lingerie enticements, beer pitches and a universe of other promotions desperate or charming to land on an ad for that hand-woven alpaca sweater you’ve been longing for. The clairvoyant marketing machine has figured it all out almost before you did.
Consumer-studying marketers have been using targeted data to personalize sales pitches for some time now, but the practice is picking up speed, and it’s spilling into other endeavors, like news-gathering, politics and governance.
Data managers have thousands of bits of information not only about you (bio, Facebook profile, survey results, product searches, purchases, and a thousand other things) but about your cohorts (males in Maryland over 30 who drink beer and belong to softball teams). They can compile such a focused picture of your product preferences, product loyalties, political leanings and much more that marketers seem to know more about you than you do yourself.
“The mass-target approach is on its way out, and personalized, data-driven marketing plans are in,” asserts content marketing site SproutSocial.com.
The site adds: “Data is already a big part of how you measure social media success, but it’ll play an even bigger role in your 2016 strategy. Marketers have never had this much access to information about consumer preferences before.”
Perhaps surprisingly for curmudgeons who tend to get grumpy when strangers start looking over their shoulders, the trend is mostly consumer driven.
“Customers today expect – and demand – a seamless and relevant experience,” contends data and analytics firm Teradata. “They have grown accustomed to marketers’ knowledge of their preferences and anticipation of their needs. Fractured or conflicting messages from a brand make marketers seem unorganized and annoy customers, sometimes even driving them away.”
No matter what they say, all of this may take some getting used to for America’s rugged individualists, most of whom would rather struggle into their own suit jackets than have a valet swoop in at the last moment to guide arms into sleeves and whisk that last piece of lint off their shoulders.
Marketing guru Heidi Cohen advises marketers to tread lightly here. “Improve cross-device, cross-channel tracking without being creepy,” she says in one of her blog posts. “People are more concerned about their privacy.”
Words to live by: Don’t be creepy.