There are some business questions surrounding the implementation of network behavioral targeting. Does network consumer targeting offer worthwhile data to build a long-term picture of individual consumer behavior? This is a complex question because many factors go into shaping an individual consumer’s online persona. There are some key unanswered questions that introduce too many wild cards into network consumer targeting – questions without a simple answer and without technology capable of addressing them.
Here’s a few:
- Does tracking of consumer behavior over a network give a complete understanding of an individual consumer? In a word, no. What if a consumer searches for a gag gift, or let’s a friend search something on their computer? Is their persona instantly, irrevocably reshaped and rendered inaccurate?
- Are consumers allowed to shift their interests? Gas is more expensive right now. Consumers are cutting back, but they’re still receiving ads deemed worthy according to their previous spending levels and corresponding online behavior. Is that using the technology to better communicate with the consumer?
- Does the technology identify a community computer from a personal one? Tracking is completely useless in computer labs, cyber-cafés, etc.
- If a family of 6 all uses the same computer, isn’t the created profile compromised for targeting purposes? Six different likes and dislikes from user to user is not something network level targeting can distinguish.
All of these questions help reinforce the notion that targeting within a domain is a more viable business practice now and in the future. There’s nothing wrong with a specific business remembering something about a specific customer. In fact, that’s a company trait most consumers welcome, off-line. My favorite stores are the ones where I hear “Hey, Josh, what’s new” when I walk in. Domain-level targeting is currently the best way to replicate that community level interaction online.
The future of online behavioral targeting, regardless of niche, likely boils down to two basic, general principles. Consumers don’t want someone following them around from store to store; but they don’t mind a personal greeting when they walk in.