How Marketing Is Changing the Way I Use the Web

As far as customer insights and behavioral analytics go, the Internet has been an extraordinary boon to marketers. Nearly every action a user takes on the Web—even their inactions, as the case may be—leads to a potentially actionable impression, a piece of data that marketers can use to learn more about the person behind that abandoned cart or that click. The old adage decrees that knowledge is power; for marketers, knowledge of consumers’ browsing behavior is often the key to converting shoppers into customers.

But there are inherent and emerging dangers in this increased access to technology. Marketers are inadvertently changing the way people behave on the Web. While I can’t speak for everyone who uses the Web, I know I’ve adjusted the way I browse.

The Shift: Clicking through links

My Twitter trends, Facebook news feed, and YouTube suggestions are exactly relevant to my interests on those networks. This is a beautiful thing; a win for all parties in the digital marketing ecosystem. I know how powerful these data and analytics platforms are, and take full advantage of the capabilities they grant marketers by carefully discerning which links to click, or what to search. The problem for marketers trying to reach me is in what I’m choosing not to click.

Knowing what I know about retargeting and other data-based automation technologies, I’ve grown extremely cautious about clicking certain links around the Web. I often avoid clicking articles or watching videos with perfectly legitimate content—an interesting video featuring Wendy Williams discussing diversity in the Academy Award nominations, for example—simply because I don’t want to be inundated with similar content. Why, after one click, would I be interested in Williams’ entire YouTube catalog?

The Fix:

My generation has a colloquial term for the act of expressing restraint; of exuding calm and prioritizing focus to achieve the clarity and presence of mind required to make effective choices. We call it “chill.” In today’s digital climate a single click can produce aggressive suggestions from YouTube. A solitary search for women’s perfume can lead to days or weeks of related perfume banners on Facebook. This, my peers and I would argue, is an example of having “no chill”—excessive or overly eager practices that threaten to compromise the merit upon which those practices are built.

Marketers who use sophisticated algorithms and technology to enable the advanced segmentation and targeting required to reach their preferred customers with relevant messaging should do all they can to exercise a level of finesse and restraint—chill, as it were—to avoid frustrating their increasingly digital savvy customers.

Consumers are enjoying a period of unprecedented autonomy and empowerment in this digital age. Marketers have an equally unprecedented opportunity to meet consumers on their terms and deliver effective, relevant messaging to them. However, the cart must stay behind the horse here, lest marketers find that ad blockers are the least of their worries.

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