Is targeting offers based on online browsing creepy?
Offering product suggestions based on a shopper’s browsing history is a common online tactic, but a new university study finds consumers being observed may be more inclined not to make any purchase.
Across 11 studies, researchers from Israel’s Arison School of Business and Indiana’s Kelley School of Business explored how being observed impacts purchase behavior.
The study concluded that “being observed prior to reaching the decision threatens consumers’ sense of autonomy in making the decision, resulting in an aversion to being observed. Furthermore, we find that such threats lead consumers to terminate their decision by avoiding purchase or by choosing default options.”
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Yonat Zwebner, the study’s co-author and an Arison School professor, said the best option for online marketers may be letting customers choose whether they want to be observed, in part by explaining the benefits of receiving the best recommendations.
Many consumers don’t realize the extent to which their personal data, including browsing behavior, tailors their online experience. Legislators are pushing to give consumers more control and transparency over their data.
A few studies found more apprehension over marketers’ use of browsing history versus purchasing history.
Only 30 percent of respondents were comfortable letting brands use their browsing history to make their rewards experience more relevant to them, according to Merkle’s “2020 Loyalty Barometer Report.” That compares to 59 percent who were comfortable with their purchasing histories being used for such purposes.
McKinsey’s “Art of Personalization” study that came out in 2019 found 38 percent of Americans citing cross-sharing of their browsing history as a reason their personalized messages appear creepy versus 29 percent for their purchase history.
A survey on the behalf of DataGrail that came in February 2020 found three-quarters of Americans expressing apprehension about companies selling or sharing their personal data with third parties. Asked about their top concerns over the use of personal data, however, only 16 percent were concerned about their browsing history being used to target ads, with purchasing history concerns at 12 percent. Bigger concerns were over the use of social media data, email and chat content.
- On My Own: The Aversion to Being Observed during the Preference-Construction Stage – Journal Of Consumer Research
- Retailers, Beware: Shoppers Don’t Like to Be Watched Online – The Wall Street Journal
- Merkle Releases 2020 Loyalty Barometer Report, Reveals Need to Create Human Connections is Top Priority – Merkle
- The Art of Personalization— Keeping it Relevant, Timely and Contextual – McKinsey
- DataGrail’s 2020 Consumer Privacy Expectations Report – DataGrail
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are there inherent shortfalls in using browsing history for targeting or in offering product suggestions? Does it make sense that consumers would be more apprehensive about marketers using their browsing versus purchase history?