Let’s All Stop Browser Beating Customers

Posted on Sep 9, 2014 in Marketing

Internet Marketing’s Much-needed About Face


Internet Marketing's Customer Image

How many times have you heard, “The Internet is great for …”?

Through the Internet, you can find anything you want or need. I have come to find that the Internet is increasingly becoming a two-way street—the Internet can find you, follow you around where ever you browse, perhaps even leave you feeling like you’re being stalked. I recently learned this insidious little secret while selling my house.

After 120 showings in only four months, two open houses and two previously failed offers, I had finally found a buyer for my home. Those four months seemed easy compared to what came next. The inspector handed me a laundry list of items to be repaired or replaced prior to closing, so I sought the services of a contractor who gave me a quote for the work. Scanning his estimate, I noticed a line-item that raised an eyebrow—$100 to replace an air conditioning air filter. The price seemed high and the task like something I could accomplish on my own. So, off to the Internet I went.

Within ten minutes of browsing on Google, I had arranged for a replacement air filter to be delivered to my doorstep—free shipping, of course—while also downloading a YouTube video on how to install the high-end air filtration baffle, separators, and drawer housing. My instincts were correct. It was something I could easily handle and for a lot less money. Chalk one up for the Internet.

Then it happened.

Later that day, I was checking the weather forecast on-line. The forecast was good, but that was not what caught my attention. There, in the screen’s right margin, was a banner ad for the filter I had just purchased. “That was fast!” I thought. That evening, while checking FaceBook, I saw the same ad. Every site I visited over the next two weeks featured the same ad. The clincher is that all of these ads were not only for the same filter but were from the same company that had sold it to me. Was it their intention to sell me more filters?

A similar situation occurred soon after when I was in the market for new snow boots. Though I owned a pair that I liked—a girl can never have too many boots, I justified—I used the specs of a pair I already owned for comparison purposes and tasked a Google search. Later that day, and for the next two weeks, every where I went on the Internet, I was followed by ads of the model and color of boots I already owned.

As a consumer, being followed around various Internet pages by the same ad is annoying and, frankly, creepy. I have always considered the companies who advertise in this manner to be lazy, ill-informed, and missing their mark. “I am fair game; I do shop on the Internet; market to me appropriately and I’ll be yours forever!” I thought as I tried to ignore the repetitious ads.

As an advertising professional, I know that we are using the brilliance of the Internet to connect with consumers at near-lightening speed completely wrong. We should know better, shouldn’t we? In my mind, advertising the same air filter is redundant, if not showing complete ignorance.

What is a better way to direct market to consumers using social media sites?

1. Be Smart
Of course, repetition builds brand awareness in consumers’ minds and that familiarity builds repeat business. Yet, where the air filter supply company missed was through repetitious ads for an air filter I had already purchased and directly from them. They were building air filter awareness, not brand awareness. In my mind, smart marketing looks like this: in short order and without even trying, a consumer browsed for an air filter, found your site, and within minutes, purchased said high-end, high-quality air filter. You now have me as a new customer. Score one for you. Before all that transpired, however, your database algorithm could and should have been set to “know” what I purchased, i.e., a high-end, high-quality home air filter. Now, your advertising should, then, intelligently market others of your products that would directly relate to me; for instance, high-quality water filters or high-quality purification systems.

2. Be Focused
Let’s look at the snow boot incident. The on-line company that I shopped is a national, outdoor outfitting company who supplies much more than just snow boots. Their algorithm could have queried my search data, targeted the snow and/or cold-weather factor, and sent pertinent advertising to me about warm wool socks, sock liners, ice cleats, foot warmers … anything except the exact same boots that I had searched. I would loved to have known that the outfitter company was having, say, a sock-liner sale. By directing relevant ads my way, and for those ads to appropriately follow me around the Internet, it stands to reason that I would click the ad, be directed to their sock liner sale, purchase sock liners and a new pair of snow boots to boot.

3. Be Respectful
Consumers are smart, and they are busy. Our email accounts are full of SPAM that we didn’t sign up for, Gmail reads everything we send out, and sites track our every move. Heaven forbid we click on something by mistake for it to then follow us for weeks.

Those of us in the combined industry of marketing, creative, and advertising have a duty and an obligation to use this medium of brilliant technology appropriately. Following consumers around just because we can wastes their time, our clients’ resources, and precious ad space; not to mention the bad reputation it builds for our business (we look like we don’t know what we’re doing).

Let’s not beat our consumers over the head with an already purchased air filter. Let’s treat consumers respectfully by delivering information they can use. Relevant content through targeted ads that directly relate to their searches and/or purchases successfully builds brand awareness, respects client relationships, and is profitable!