Marketing shouldn’t stalk a customer

Digital marketing adds all kinds of wonderful ways to customize to your customer. But where is the line?

Michael Learmonth wrote a brilliant post on Advertising Age about “the pants that stalked me on the Web”. Just as you guess from the title, an ad for the pants followed him around the Web like a stalker. Judging from the comments accompanying the article, the pants had plenty of company stalking people on the Web.

The culprit is  “re-targeting” technology, in this case offered by Criteo. The marketing concept is to “Re-engage with lost prospects via personalised banners across the Internet.”

The theory goes like this: a person has indicated interest by coming to your site, so the likelihood of converting them to a purchase is higher than someone that hasn’t visited your site.  And there are, of course, studies to back that up.

But I have to wonder: if someone hasn’t engaged in a purchase, what if it is because they didn’t want to purchase? And  following them around will not make them happy, but more than a little irritated.  Not to mention creeped out.

Just as studies show higher conversion rates, legislation shows people do not like being hounded in their personal space. Do not call lists and opt-out lists for mail come to mind.

It gets back to what we’ve always said: “Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.”

Treat your customer with respect. Treat them as a human being – not an analytic point. The golden rule – treat others as you would like to be treated – applies to effective marketing, too.

-Published August 4th, 2010

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