Digital retargeting: How far is going too far?

Digital listening has emerged strongly as an important tool to boost customer understanding and analyze trends based on their behavioral attributes and digital footprint. Such vital insights are used by marketers to efficiently engage their customers with targeted and personalized content and offerings, which are delivered to them via various digital marketing channels such as advertisements on social media platforms or third-party websites, email or SMS.

It is imperative for organizations to know how far to drive the personalization agenda before the importance of content relevance and customization is weighed down by the fear of ‘digital surveillance’ and data privacy concerns. Frequent and rampant retargeting can jeopardize customer’s relationship by making their experience intrusive and unpleasant.

In the wake of growing instances of digital data privacy breach across the world such that of Cambridge Analytica (the company allegedly leveraged Facebook user’s personal data to target messages regarding the political campaigns that they supported), some countries are formulating regulations around disclosure by organizations on how they collect and use customer’s personal information. Even though data breach incidents in India are higher than the global average (A survey conducted by Thales shows that around 52% of the Indian respondents reported a data breach in 2017 against a global average of 36%), laws governing this issue continue to be inadequate in controlling such incidences. For instances, software application developers are not required to seek explicit permissions from Indian users regarding their personal information before they download the application on their digital devices. Further, the over indulgence of Indian users in public social activities (research show that over 90% of the messages, status updates, photographs and wishes posted by Indian users are in the public domain) places them at a higher risk.
For an organization’s marketing success, it is imperative to regularly provide customers personalized content and offerings and not intimidate them in the process.

Organizations need to realize that engaging their customers more often will not fuel loyalty. In fact, extensive retargeting across third-party websites can actually leave the customers feeling betrayed as they feel their personal and behavioral information is shared across different platforms without their consent, seriously tarnishing the company’s image and dampening the customer’s experience. Further, frequent pop-ups and advertisements trailing the customer across websites lead to cramping up of webpages, thereby causing poor navigability and surfing experience. Given the rather short supply of space on the mobile interface, the issue of navigability gets amplified manifold. To avoid such marketing mistakes, organizations must keep the following points in mind while formulating their retargeting strategy:

Demonstrate transparency: Organizations must clearly and categorically state the purpose of collecting customer’s personal data and its intended use by the company. They must strive to provide customers utmost clarity regarding their collected personal information around its usage, security and the duration for which the information will be stored. They must also give a commitment that the information will be kept safe and will not change hands under any circumstances. Such a disclosure must be easily accessible on both, the company’s website and at the very point of data collection.

Seek explicit consent on data usage: Organizations must not assume customer’s preferences and comfort level around usage of their personal, behavioral and transactional information. They must take customer’s permission prior to collecting, storing and utilizing their data for personalization and marketing purposes. This action will help instill customer confidence in the brand by making them aware of how their personal information will be utilized and by whom.

Ascertain the acceptable limit of ‘digital following’: To ensure that customers are not overwhelmed with frequent and trailing communication, organizations must identify the communication channel that the customer would like to be contacted on and the acceptable frequency of communication. Here, they must leverage research and analytical insights around marketing campaigns (such as, number of marketing emails unopened, number of SMSs that did not lead to a customer’s response, number of times advertisements were flashed across webpages before conversion) to help organizations define the ‘limit of following’ that is reasonable and unobjectionable to the customer.

In conclusion, personalization and retargeting that is built around customer’s choices and respects their privacy and social boundaries will succeed in enhancing the value of the customer engagement and delivering a delightful experience.