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Digital Transformation

The Personalization Problem Web Sites Have

It’s official.  Most web sites that use an ad service of any kind have a personalization problem. It’s a serious one in this evolving world of consumer expectations.  It’s making some large ad companies a lot of money but at the expense of their customers who do ad buys and expect some sort of smart results.  Given the huge amount of data available, I’m sometimes surprised more companies aren’t leveraging it. But before I get deeper into the problem, let me show you some ad from sites I have recently visited.  I should note that these ads appear on a large number of sites I visit, not just or

tmobilead tripitad omniad


















Here’s what they have in common, I visited the homepage and site of these corporations within the last two weeks.  But here’s my problem with these ads:

  1. I am a T-Mobile customer. I went to the site to interact with them on my plan.
  2. I am a Tripit customer. I went to the site to interact with them as I plan my many trips.
  3. I stay at Omni Hotels because my company has them in our travel policy.  You guessed it, I went to their site because I wanted to see if they had a hotel in a specific city and I’m a repeat customer.
  4. I am a Chase customer.  I just switched credit cards from one Chase card to another card that better fits my needs.   I am most definitely not a merchant by the way.

Yet every single one of these companies thinks that buying ads and pasting them on sites all over the internet for me to see again, and again, and again is the single best way to gain new customers.  <sarcasm> This wonderful personalization based on knowing you as a customer comes from the fact that you visited their site </sarcasm>

The truth is that I like T-Mobile.  They give great service and when I last switched I saved about $75 a month for my family.  I love Tripit. They make traveling easier.  Omni hotels provide some of the best experiences in the industry.   I’m at the lowest tier but when I stay with them, I’m treated better than I’m treated at two other major hotel chains where I am at the highest level.  I chose Chase because they offer a credit card that fits my needs as a traveler who leaves the country occasionally.

So why, after they spent so much effort making me a happy customer, do I get hounded by generic ads that have no relevance to me? I understand that in the world of electronic ads that can be delivered by the millions for cheap, you can reap benefits.  Even if only 1/2 of one percent of those ads convert, you still see ROI.  But what does it mean to those customers you want to keep and who cost you serious $$ when you lose them?

A Better Form of Personalization

Instead of just throwing any old ad at me as I hit sites that display commercial ads, wouldn’t it be better if these companies followed a more logical approach:

  1. Forget generic targeting.  We have too much data today to rely on that approach.
  2. Figure out who I am and segment me.  Ask these large ad companies to deliver ads relevant to me based on more information than the fact that I just happened to visit a site.
  3. Don’t keep delivering the same ads up to me for the next two weeks.  Brand saturation does not make consumers happy
  4. When a customer visits a site or otherwise interacts with them, use that information to personalize the experience on the site,  “Welcome back Mr. Porter. I saw you recently looked for hotel in San Francisco, did you know we have a special available to you as a valued member?”
  5. Find other channels with which to interact with your customer.  I know email is well used but sms, beacon/geofencing, mobile, etc are all ways to interact as long as you do it in an intelligent way.

As a final request, please stop “personalizing” my experience based on the fact that I happened to visit your site.  Please stop harassing me in my daily journey across the internet.  I promise to stay a happy customer if you stop it.

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Michael Porter

Mike Porter leads the Strategic Advisors team for Perficient. He has more than 21 years of experience helping organizations with technology and digital transformation, specifically around solving business problems related to CRM and data.

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