Is Behavioral Targeting Gaining Public Acceptance?

Josh GordonA recent article, published by the WebProNews, announced the results of a recent Truste survey of online consumers and their general feelings toward behavioral targeting technologies. The article’s author points out that general acceptance is increasing among consumers. But, the article (and the survey) fails to differentiate between types of behavioral targeting. This is significant, because it reinforces the idea that when reading survey results about the consumer's impression of behavioral targeting, we must be in “buyer beware” mode, and spend extra time analyzing the results to decipher real meaning.

For example, some of the results of this survey aren’t great news for network (or affiliate) behavioral targeting users. According to the survey, 50.5% of the respondents say they are not comfortable with “advertisers using their browsing history to serve relevant ads.” What does that mean? Simply, relevance isn’t bad – but when the consumer experiences relevance can be important.

Not to pile on the network folks too much, but another survey result pops out at me. According to the survey, 68.4% of the same group of respondents say they would be willing to use a Web browser that blocks ads, content, and code that does not come from the website they’re visiting. It’s proper to assume that there is a greater likelihood that a consumer will accept relevant content if it’s coming from the website they are visiting. Therefore, it’s just relevance – it’s displaying the content at the correct time, too.

It’s interesting how tried and true marketing truths have tremendous staying power. These survey results prove, again, how important it is to properly manage the expectations of your customers. If they expect to see relevant ads or content to enhance their shopping or browsing experience while on your website, it’s a great experience for them. If they see an ad for your products or services while reading unrelated content, the ad could be processed in more negative way.

The lesson to digital marketers is to ensure that if you are providing targeted content to your customers, make sure you’re reaching them when they want to be reached. Positive perception is extremely important, and once it starts slipping, it’s difficult to recover.

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