Email Missing Mark

Now that long lines at retail stores are becoming a thing of the past, one would think that holiday shoppers would be a much happier bunch, but smart marketers know that is always something for customers to complain about. And to a smart marketer, an identified problem is also an opportunity to improve critical "touch point" functions like customer service and one-to-one marketing communications. 

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Believe it or not, email communications in the early days of e-commerce used to be very effective. But as it became ubiquitous, we grew weary of non-targeted e-communications, and most email is now largely ignored. But some marketers have improved their technique since then, and with behavioral targeting the new normal in digital advertising, it is easier to predict what people might want to see as far as marketing messaging goes. But as for traditional retailers, in addition to having trouble with their brick-and-mortar operations, many are also struggling with e-communications.

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According to the folks over at Forrester Research, 90% of organizations say that they are focused on personalizing customer experiences, but only 40% of shoppers say that what the messages they get from marketers is relevant to them. That's quite a knowledge gap! What is actually going on is probably more like "mass customization", a business concept from the early age of digital (the mid-90's) that described where marketers basically offered a modular approach to goods and services so that the end product could be "customized". Think "Build-A-Bear". These marketers are assuming that a shopper who buys boots might also want to see promotions about dresses, a concept called cross-selling that we have been teaching in marketing classes for decades. But perhaps things are changing. Perhaps in this age of "true customization", where behavioral tracking leads to behavioral targeting, consumers who are used to the idea of being followed now want messaging to be hyper-targeted based on their purchasing and web browsing behavior. And to think that only 10 years ago, privacy was a prevailing issue. Attitudes have clearly changed.

Discussion: Should consumers be concerned about the issue of privacy in behavioral tracking and targeting? Are you concerned? Why or why not? Do you like to receive highly targeted communications or do you think it's kind of creepy?