Our content-disrupted world has made techniques like personalization and contextualization necessary at the forefront of the marketing industry. Customers often favor a personalized approach that recognizes their individuality—but those techniques can become intrusive and counterproductive when they appear in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Recently, rumors said that Facebook was tapping into people's conversations then showing them laser-targeted ads about what they had discussed—a dream vacation in Greece, new 3-D TV, or new spicy pasta recipe.
Fortunately, those rumors were unsubstantiated, and Facebook offered an official statement denying those claims and putting the rumors to rest. However, it's still hard for consumers to not be creeped out at times by marketing campaigns that are so precise.
How Big Data Made It Simple
The rise of Big Data has resulted in marketers gaining access to specific behavioral and purchasing patterns popular among specific targeted segments. Marketers now have plenty of information to analyze and deliver the perfect message to each individual customer.
In having a user-oriented outlook, brands are creating better relationships with their target audiences, which eventually lead to an increased return on sales and better overall reputations. Brands that use targeted tactics report a 20% increase in sales, according to a DemandGen study.
Many high-powered companies have paved the way with this technology, and others have carved out a market for themselves by offering niche services geared toward specific platforms.
As more data starts to roll in and pile up, the industry faces storage challenges while it maintains efficient and quick methods of analysis. Ultimately, however, this technology can't just be about numbers… It's about building relationships and bringing forth services that have people in mind.
Mobile advertising is a prominent example of an industry that uses the power of contextual marketing to drive greater success. Because the industry is booming and competition is fierce, mobile advertisers need an extra edge.
Targeted mobile marketing has helped develop super-targeted ads since around 2011. The click-through rate for contextualized ads is nearly triple than that of other banner ads, according to an eMarketer study.
Five years later, contextualized ads have been taken to another level.
Because the tactic strives to promote a deeper understanding of mobile users within specific segments, advertisers can gear ads to fit each individual, showing only apps relevant to their location, interests, and specific needs. Moreover, because 74% of mobile users turn on their location-based services, advertisers can use geolocation tactics to step up their game.
App-discovery platforms like Appnext pave the way in making ads more aligned with user experience, so they naturally fit specific user behaviors and become app content extensions. This way, the platforms keep ads more transparent and beneficial for the audience.
In addition, Facebook uses its own algorithm to show users the apps most relevant to them with the targeted Direct Install feature. Google Play also analyzes users' previous searches to come up with which apps to show in their marketplace, ensuring they are tailored for each specific user.
Because contextualization is becoming increasingly on demand, we also need to consider its flip side and how it could go too far as to thwart marketing efforts.
What Can Go Wrong
Personalized ads and contextualized suggestions can be intimidating. The creepiness factor kicks into high gear when a person feels that marketers know them better than they expected (or than he or she wanted them to). That uneasy feeling also occurs when people forget they've willingly disclosed personal information to receive a newsletter or coupons, or to sign up for a service.
In the near future, we will see Big Data technology and analysis increasingly improve at determining customer behavior and predicting activities. Now is the time to evaluate whether your marketing strategy is effective or frightens your customers.
Consider using the information you have to segment customers by how likely they are to tolerate and agree on a certain level of "creepiness."
For example, differentiate by age group. Millennials grew up with those changes and are more likely to accept and even expect them, as opposed to older audiences, who typically find them to be extremely intrusive. With that said, you can't rely on that assumption every time.
Always consider that some individuals, regardless of their age group and geolocation, will be different, and the only way you're going to figure that out is through ongoing, transparent communication.
Establish and maintain conversations with customers to know what works for them and what doesn't. Use the technology you have on hand to interact with customers in a way that will keep them informed about how you are using their information. Remind them every so often of what you know about them, and ask whether they are comfortable with that information being used for special offers or targeted ads. Make any necessary adjustments like targeting them less often or not using all the information you have in a way that can offend or hurt them.
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Marketers have a responsibility to existing and potential customers to make smart use of their information. Technology has made us eager to take advantage of it, but we need to create awareness of the details we've acquired and how they can be used.
If you treat customer data as a well-protected gold mine, customers will feel you value their privacy and you'll be able to get the most out of all that data.