Sugar Pie Wants to Know

Personalization online is a hot, hot topic these days. Many people don’t even know or care that personalization technologies are present everywhere they surf, but trust me, they’re there – and some are more obvious then others.

Let’s look at Spotify, for example. Without too much fanfare, they launched the “Discover Playlist” over the summer and this kind of personalization is totally on point. You see, I’m a music dork and one thing I LOVE to do is find new bands and new songs that kick my ass. As a father of young children and a person who has a full schedule on a daily basis, though, the priority of discovering new bands was something that fell down the priority list. Here is where personalization solved that problem. Every Monday, Spotify drops their Discover Playlist into my playlists – personalized based on what’s in my library and what I’ve listened to.

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For those of you who remember such a time, this is pretty much the equivalent of your buddy handing you a new mix cassette tape every Monday. And guess what? It’s great every week! I was telling an old co-worker recently that at least one new artist a week gets a deeper dive from me when I listen to my Discover playlist. How do they do it? In a nutshell, they’re combining my personal taste in music with what similar fans are listening to and playlisting. It’s unique and it’s uncanny how on the mark they are with these playlists.

You may also occasionally receive emails from your favorite shops, see recommended products on websites and see banner ads on non-shopping sites that are closely aligned with your tastes. Not bad.

But here’s where it gets a little annoying, depending on who you ask – personal retargeting. Let’s say you visit and explore the site because you need a blue blanket.  You don’t find one and you go to Facebook to check for the latest cat video and you see, right there integrated into your feed, a Walmart ad for blankets. What has happened here is personal retargeting, where Walmart has purchased Facebook ads on Facebook to people who visited their web site and left without purchasing.

Here’s an ad on my own Facebook page where it appears that J.Crew is targeting hockey players?

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How annoying is it? Well, to me it is and it isn’t. I could certainly see how people might be a little creeped out. I could also see how it could be helpful. For example, maybe Walmart’s offering a 15% off coupon to come back and purchase. It all depends on your tolerance. As a person who worked in online retail, I can tell you that certain offers for personal retargeting worked well and others did not.

Where it’s potentially REALLY annoying (and timely right now) is when you share a computer with someone else, such as your wife or significant other. You can easily ruin a nice surprise by seeing a retargeted ad on a gift that SHE found for YOU. Whoops.

So…….good and bad, right? Want more bad? A couple of weeks ago I got an email from someone professionally that said “Hey Jeff, I saw you were on our site on Friday night, so I just wanted to check in with you to see if you found what you needed or to see if you had any questions.” Really nice follow-up! In fact, this is good practice. The problem? I hadn’t been on their site in months. Ouch.

These are some pretty basic personalization tactics – it can get much more complicated, but I think these real-life scenarios are just fun to look at.

I guess it comes down to the marketers of the world and making sure your data is dependable, spot-on correct and you’re doing it in a way that doesn’t creep out your customers. If Sugar Pie wants to know, then Sugar Pie should make sure she’s buttoned up and ready to deliver something meaningful to you.