The other day I was on a bicycle website browsing a bike that I may buy at some point in the future - probably a long time as the price needs to come down considerably. I spent a couple of minutes looking at the specifications and the user reviews and then closed the tab and started looking at something else. Five minutes later an email pops into my inbox with the title 'Forgotten Something?’. I clicked on it and the marketing department from the bicycle site had sent me an email saying I had forgotten to buy the bike after spending a couple of minutes looking at it.
When we are looking at it from a business perspective, it's great that we have the power to do that if we need to. However, from a consumer perspective it is creepy and intrusive. After all, suggesting the bike to me in ads across Google is one thing, but actively sending me an email a couple of minutes after looking at it is creepy. I haven't visited the site since as a result.
This is a prime example of marketers getting their hands on data and thinking about the power it may have, rather than the damage it will do if they use it wrongly.
Going back to the example of the bike shop, they clearly have some powerful real time analytics and have identified my IP (I wasn't logged in to their site at the time, but have an account with them) and are conducting some aggressive reactive campaigns. But what they failed to consider is that according to Retailing Today, 81% of shoppers conduct research before making big purchases. This is exactly what I was doing and by jumping the gun, the chances of me buying that product from their site, if I do eventually buy, is considerably reduced.
However, this is not to say that personalization and direct targeting of potential customers is a bad thing. For instance, a study from Statista found that emails with a personalized message have a 17.6% open rate, compared to 11.4% without. This is a significant difference in real numbers means that if you sent an email to 10,000 people, you would lose 620 potential customers when not personalizing. However, there are many marketers who don't use this, effectively, with 42% not using targeted emails at all according to MarketingProfs.
This shows us that there are some marketers who utilize their data and do it well, others who utilize it and do it overzealously, and others who don't utilize it at all.
But rather than looking at this at an individual level, it indicates a system that needs change, with education needed to set norms and acceptable standards. If you were to look at it as earning a driving license, you aren't surprised if somebody with no license crashes a car, because nobody has shown them how to use it. If somebody with a license crashes their car because they are driving too fast, you can blame them for knowing and still getting it wrong and if somebody else always drives at 20mph below the speed limit because they are nervous, you can equally criticize them for holding up traffic.
The issue we have with marketers at the moment is that most haven't been taught how to use data properly, so can we be surprised that many are getting it wrong?
Companies across the globe need to put effective data training into place for their marketers to have the best chance of maximizing the potential it offers. Leaving marketers to 'work it out' is a dangerous game as it almost forces people to experiment without known limits or controls. The best marketers connect with their audience, but for that to happen they need to know how in a world dominated by data.