Customer Portfolios' Blog

Tailored or Too-Much? Online Cookie Debate Continues


Customer Portfolios is in the business of understanding customers. By knowing their attributes, purchases, channel, timing, price point, and their shopping behavior, we can identify their segments, their needs and wants, and what they are most likely to buy next. This is not done to be creepy. Rather, it is to help our clients create a better user experience and to avoid reenacting Groundhog Day (the 1993 Bill Murray comedy movie in which every day is like the very first, in which everyone repeatedly treats Bill as if they don’t know him.)

Outside of our world, out on the World Wide Web, every action and experience leaves a trail of data. I keep seeing the media addressing this from a scare perspective with countless articles on how customers can protect their data online and how online cookies play the role of "big brother".

Perhaps a better approach than “the treat” will be to look at “the opportunity”? In this regard, there are opportunities for marketers and consumers alike.

For marketers, only speaking to prospects that may actually want the service, product, deal being offered. And on the other side of the coin, for consumers, only getting what is wanted, like men's sporting goods for skiing, ice skating, snow shoeing (with 100+ inches of snow in Boston what better time to take up a new hobby!) vs. women’s products and goods.

So how can marketers bridge this delta to provide more tailored content at the reluctance of the consumer? Although it sounds idealistic, the most successful approach would be to create a culture change; where consumers would actively enable cookies and be more accepting of targeted and personalized ads knowing that it in turn provides a better and more engaging user experience. As I said, though, this is idealistic. The reality is that due to data breaches happening seemingly daily, consumers (and rightfully so) are hesitant to give up their data to allow for such an experience.

An alternative approach would be one currently employed by GigaPower and AT&T. For over a year, AT&T has offered lower prices to GigaPower customers who are willing to participate in AT&T Internet Preferences, an analytics program that allows the Internet service provider to use information about the sites its customers visit and the search terms they enter for the purpose of personalizing ads to them online, via email, or direct mail. As a result, the majority of users have opted into this program.

While the latter approach raises questions, in the interim, when consumers are slow in their willingness to engage with targeted content, it presents an interesting opportunity for brands to partner with telecommunications and technology partners to deliver tailored content.

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