Data Driven Marketing: Finding the sweet spot between stranger and stalker

20 August 2015

Written by Kate De Marco

In February 2012 a story broke about how American retailing giant Target used predictive analytics to figure out a teenage girl was pregnant even before her father did. It went viral and became a PR fiasco for Target. What is not so well known is that the catalyst for this was the keynote speech at the Predictive Analytics World Conference titled “How Target Gets the Most out of Its Guest Data to Improve Marketing ROI”. The New York Times picked up the story in their article “How Companies Learn Your Secrets”, which then exploded when Forbes ran the story with the headline “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did”.

As the story snowballed the lens moved from rational and analytical to emotional and human. The impressive predictive analytics at the heart of this story, became overshadowed by the reality of an individual’s personal experience. Target’s modelling may have meant the relevancy of their baby product messaging was spot on, but they had overlooked how it would be received. This may be the greatest challenge facing data driven marketers “How do we use personal data to provide customised experiences without being creepy?”

With more data and more accurate predictive models, businesses are looking for ways to use that knowledge to their advantage to improve business performance. The relationship is not one sided though, digital trends show that customers increasingly want more personalised and relevant shopping experiences. Amazon, Netflix, Google Now and Uber have shown us all how these expectations can be met.

So how do you navigate between stranger and stalker in order to find the sweet spot that will be right for your customers?

At TRACK we start with the customer experience and then look at how businesses can find the right moments to be of value in individual customer journeys. The critical aspect here is being of value to the customer. The display banner stalking me around the internet months after I’ve returned from holiday is not useful to me anymore.

Mutual benefit and trust are the basis of sustainable relationships, but expectations around context, awareness and appropriateness are central to whether use of personal information grows or harms a relationship. The important rule, as always, is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. As more channels become individually addressable the organisations that will be most successful will be those that use customer data for the benefit of their customers.

If you need help finding the sweet spot of using data to help strengthen and grow your customer relationships, get in contact with us.