Friday, February 27, 2015

Do Retargeting campaigns limit serendipity?

I was recently browsing the web when I started noticing books being advertised to me in the side banners. These were the same books, of course, that I had recently been browsing on various book retailers’ sites. One of them had decided to retarget me. At first I felt good: my web browsing experience had just been personalized. Indeed I found myself thinking about those books and whether I should pull the trigger on the purchase. But eventually it prompted to wonder whether now I was going to see only the things that I was looking for. In other words, discovery through serendipity was over. Newspaper editors are proud about the placement of stories and ads in such a manner that serendipity is maximized. A human mind thinks about how readers could discover a service or product that may not actively be seeking out. Is such a type of ‘editorialized serendipity’ extinct?

‘Look-alike’ campaigns where customers with similar profiles are targeted similarly may be one way to achieve discovery. In these campaigns, I will be presented with products and services that another customer (one that exhibits similar digital browsing, social and purchase tendencies as I do) has endorsed (by purchase or otherwise). There is a bit of targeted discovery here certainly. But a deeper level of discovery is still missing.

In fact, as more and more products and services become available online and digitally, the need for discovery deeper into the catalog (whether it be books, clothes, accessories, etc) rises. Platforms like Amazon rely on the customer spending time on their site to achieve the deeper discovery through browsing and taxonomy. But given that Google and Facebook are becoming the highway system by which we navigate our digital lives, a case can be made that advertisers have an opportunity to bring the deeper level of discovery to their target audiences through ads. And in doing so, create a richer, discovery-led advertising experience.

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