This is the summary of a behavioral targeting article by Richard Harris. It talks about the difference between personalized targeting, which is initiated by the users themselves, and behavioral targeting, which is initiated by the marketer. Criticisms to both targeting techniques is misplaced, because they critics fail to see that this is simply good service, and is similar to what customer service personnel does in brick and mortar shops. Here is the link to the original behavioral targeting article: Personalized Targeting.
More often than not, the personalization of advertising and marketing on the Web is portrayed as something that is invasive and creepy. Hence, many have come to view it in a negative light, which is a stark contrast to its primary purpose.
A “Personal Shopper” Online
If one really thinks about it, personalization is simply a kind of strategy where Internet users, when they visit a website, are served up with content and products that they might find most useful. It is quite similar to the practice of employing a “personal shopper” in an actual store, when a person is assigned to assist customers in finding, trying out, and purchasing the items that they are looking for.
Behavioral vs. Personalized Targeting
One reason why personalized targeting is being criticized could be because it is being likened to behavioral targeting. This is a bit misleading, because even though the two methods seem similar, they are in fact very distinct from each other.
Behavioral targeting works first by gathering information through different means: analytics, Web searches, site visits, demographic indicators, and so on. Through the collection of various data, the main goal of behavioral targeting is for an advertiser or marketer to determine which Internet users may be the most interested in a product offering. In doing so, the chances of a website visitors becoming a buyer is increased.
Personalized targeting, on the other hand, is a different matter. It is initiated by the online users themselves, and not by the marketer. Here’s how it works: when a person decides to visit a website, the content adapts to his or her preferences. For instance, if based on prior click history is has been determined that the visitor is male, or often searches for men’s products, the website would automatically serve him up with the exact pages featuring the products he may need.
The Benefits of Personalization
Obviously, an advertisement that has been personalized based on a person’s preferences is more relevant than one that is not. After all, nobody wants to view ads of products that are of no use to them. However, due to the current discussions about online privacy, the practice of targeting is facing some serious setbacks. Generally, people are not fond of the idea of being followed.
Still, when a customer enters a store, isn’t it better if they are shown the very things that they may find most interesting and useful? This is not creepy at all; it is an indication of
good service. There is a need to avoid blurring the lines between personalized and behavioral targeting, though, so that personalization would not be met with misplaced criticism.
What’s more, advertising and marketing personnel should always see to it that even if customers are shown relevant products, they are not disturbed by “trackers.” After all, whether online or offline, no customer likes being followed around.