skip to main content

Getting RSVP Right on All Fronts

AcxiomApril 10, 2014

In today’s blog I want to comment on a marketing practice that touches on all aspects of RSVP – marketing big data and analytics.

There has been a lot said, and I have commented in previous blogs, about consumers feeling they have lost all control over the data that is ‘out there’ about them.  As marketers seek to gain a better understanding of their customers and audiences who are likely to become customers — if they only knew about the great products the marketer has to offer — we may inadvertently trample on one or more, maybe all, aspects of RSVP (Respect for Individuals, Sustainable Practices, Value to Consumers and Progressive Policies). 

What I think most consumers fail to understand is how poorly we actually can predict their likes and dislikes, truth be told.  A marketing campaign that pulls a 5% response is wonderful.  If that can be improved to 6%, that’s a 20% better ROI.  Marketers are thrilled, consumers are underwhelmed.

Regardless of whether it is 5% or 6%, that means we guessed wrong about their interests or their readiness to buy over 94% of the time.  The weather man isn’t that wrong, even in today’s world of extreme weather patterns.  Some consumers see marketers collecting more and more data as too intrusive – getting too personal – when in fact the marketer feels like they aren’t nearly accurate enough in their insights.  These two opposing perspectives on the same situation are creating a lot of friction in the marketplace with advocates and policy makers.

Since we don’t get it right that often, when we do and we really personalize the communication, we can scare the consumer off – the very opposite of what we want to do.  There was an article some time ago about an individual coming very close to buying a very distinctive pair of high healed red shoes, but abandoning the shopping carpet at the last minute.  The advertiser, knowing they had gotten close to a sale, delivered very specific ads to this individual on other sites displaying the specific shoes they had almost bought (a process known as retargeting).  After a few days of seeing this distinctive pair of shoes pop-up on news sights, and other places unrelated to shoes, the consumer became creeped out that the store where they had shopped was ‘following’ them around.  In fact, the store was actually guessing where they might appear so they could show them the ad, and maybe offer a discount.  Wouldn’t it have been a little bit smarter and more subtle if the marketer had instead offered them a discount on their next purchase of ladies heels, than to show the exact distinctive shoe they had chosen not to buy?

Another example of what we call the creepy factor at Acxiom, is when marketers fail to realize that big data and sophisticated analytics are still predictions, not certainties.  Through analysis of past buyers of a certain product, we can predict with an improved degree of accuracy who might be in market for that product, but big data and sophisticated analytics only improve our chances of being right, it doesn’t ensure them.  The message in the offer or ad, especially when not delivered on your website, should always be subtle – you will be wrong some, if not most, of the time.

Getting the message too personal or completely wrong can negatively affect all aspects of RSVP. Don’t be a victim of either tactic.

In a recent report from the World Privacy Forum, The Scoring of America: How Secret Consumer Scores Threaten Your Privacy and Your Future, they did quite a deep dive into all the ways that we use big data and analytics to ‘score’ individuals.  While much of the concern about scores focused on eligibility scores for credit, insurance, employment and other significant decisions, marketing was mentioned as being potentially discriminating and questions were raised about the general field of risk-based pricing practices.  The report said, “Oddly, direct marketing lists and activities have the potential to strike deeply into the lives of individuals in quirky ways that can have an impact on consumer lifestyle.  Much remains to be learned about the impact of consumers scoring in the direct marketing area….”  This is not the first time that risk-based pricing has been put forward as an issue.  A few weeks ago it was mentioned in the recent FTC workshop on alternative scoring.  It certainly won’t be the last we will hear of it.  I’ll discuss this issue in more detail in my next blog.

Other key issues to watch include:

  • Still awaiting the FTC report on their investigation into data brokers.
  • Start watching for privacy legislation related to marketing in the states.