Behavior is only one datapoint

September 29, 2008

Much has been written about on-site consumer behavior and its applicability to targeting programs. Despite this, little is really known about types of behaviors that are tracked or trackable, and which ones are truly indicators of or useful as a high-value targeting mechanism. It’s possible that we’ve over-inflated the importance of behavior and overlooked other things that should be considered. And, in doing this, headed towards a focus on a technology solution that relies upon the use of highly personal consumer information to fuel its’ engine… raising the concern of consumer protection groups and the governments of many countries.

Types of behaviors that are tracked or track-able:

  • On-site, single domain behavior – probably the least contentious source of data, easily believed by consumers as a valuable source of data to help marketers connect with consumers. Often called re-marketing, in a recent MediaPost article, Jeff Hirsch, the CEO of Revenue Science and Behavioral Targeting Standards Consortiumfounding member, specifically stated that this a limited version of behavioral targeting.
  • Cross-domain behavior – algorithms consume a large quantity of data, including searches, product views, and domains visited in the attempt to identify a sense of interest on the part of an individual consumer so a marketer can target ad messages. The aggregation of this data can occur via cookie tracking across a network or more recently there’s been attempts to validate the process of intercepting and interpreting all web activity from ISPs (i.e. NebuAd), creepy.

However, in all the dialog about behavior, what other data points are available that marketers can use as targeting methodology? Or, from a more important strategic perspective, what is the objective of a marketing program and which data points can help the marketer accurately identify and target?

My assertion is that other data points are more effective at targeting, achieving marketer objectives. Here’s why I say this:

  • Today, only a minor portion of display ad spending is funded towards behavioral targeting. Display ads are largely brand oriented. Marketers tend to choose domains as their primary targeting mechanism. Behavioral targeting comes too late in the purchase cycle to affect brand preference and attitude, it’s more of a “hail-mary” or a direct response tool.
  • Virtually no on-site targeting is the result of multi-domain data aggregation.

What other data points are available, without any fancy technology:

  • Geography, language, and season – these have been used for generations in the offline environment very successfully, why don’t we use them on line more often? The interesting point is that these data points are largely available to everyone with very limited technology constraints. Between a site visitors IP address and their browser settings, these data points are easy to use. Whether display ad or on-site targeting, these are available today.
  • Returning customer or new prospect – again, these are largely available to marketers today. Why not use them? Certainly, every marketer would like to speak to a new prospect in different terms than they would an existing customer.

In a later post I’ll try to talk about targeting options that require more sophisticated technology. Until then, send me your thoughts!

Mark


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