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Playing Dumb In an Omnichannel World

By Jason Compton

Originally published at https://www.digitalthirst.com/item/playing-dumb-in-an-omni-channel-world

Data is the lifeblood of the digital transformation affecting every aspect of our lives. That transformation is just getting started, but we’ve already learned a great deal. One important lesson is that sometimes you can be too clever for your own good, since some short-term wins have a long-term cost.  

It’s been at least six years since powerful, data-driven retargeting ads entered the public spotlight. In the ensuing years, retargeting and remarketing have proven to be extremely effective tools for reaching customers and closing sales which might otherwise have been abandoned. They have also continued to draw a lot of unwanted attention and suspicious glances, which is why there are still so many stories devoted to taking the creepiness factor out of retargeting.


This is not a hit piece against retargeting. Retargeting is a fantastic marketing asset, because it creates a live offer for a product you already know the customer is interested in. Retargeting networks allow you to find the customer long after they have left your digital properties and still convert. 

That’s powerful stuff. But closing a sale and delivering a positive customer experience are not always the same thing. There’s enough pushback and resentment of these heavy-handed data-driven tactics that CX strategists need to take it seriously.

Not so seriously as to walk away from all those data-driven insights. Data, and the ways in which brands can use it is still growing by leaps and bounds, and that’s a good thing. But even as brands get much smarter about their customers, it will pay to play a little dumb when it comes to execution.

“Not using every last bit of information you have is smart,” says Brooke Niemiec, CMO of data insights vendor Elicit. “Marketing should feel like a happy coincidence. Showing me ads for the same shirt for the next two weeks, including the fact that it’s cheaper now than when I bought it, is just going to make me annoyed and grumpy.”

Let’s say your organization is so dead-set on mining every last data resource that they will not hear of any customer experience-related complaints. Fine. That supposes more of an adversarial relationship with your customer, so we’ll run with that analogy and describe the situation not as a nebulous matter of customer experience, but of a hard-as-nails game of poker.

Consider this scenario. Your opponent (the customer) has accidentally tipped their cards to you, and you see that they have a crummy hand. Should you:

A. Loudly shout, “I know you only have a pair of threes! Fold now!”


B. Say nothing, gradually raising the stakes without alerting the opponent to their mistake

Choosing option A will almost certainly chase the other player from the game and you’ll collect the pot on the table. On the other hand, option B keeps the other player in the hand, enabling you to extend the game and increase the size of the pot. It even keeps your advantage a secret, which you might elect to use in a future hand.

Chasing a customer all over the Internet with the same ad for a product you know they browsed is option A. Instead, take a smoother approach. For example, use context-sensitive creative to display an offer for a related product, but not the browsed item itself. That approach feels more like serendipity than stalking, while still making the best use of the sophisticated browsing and affinity data your organization has collected. That makes for a better experience while still preserving the goal of increased conversions. 


Don’t want to change a thing about your data strategy? There’s still a CX-oriented fix for that. Invert the model and be as transparent as possible about the data you’re collecting, and how you’re using it. Just as the leading e-commerce vendors let customers see how recent purchases and browsing behavior affects current offers, be straight with your prospects when a third visit in a week, or the download of a fourth white paper, is what prompted your latest triggered email or retargeting ad. 

“You want a relationship and dialogue, rather than to hide anonymously behind your website and send a sales guy after them after they hit a certain activity threshold,” says Ramon Chen, CMO of cloud data platform vendor Reltio.

And like any great player, test your results. The tactical application of data insights can close more sales, but if the long-term effect on loyalty is negative, the answer isn’t more data—it’s better experiences that make the data feel a bit less cold and calculating.

About the Author: Jason Compton

Jason Compton is an internationally published writer and reporter with extensive experience in enterprise technologies, including marketing, sales, service and collaboration. He previously served as executive editor of CRM Magazine and has been published in over 50 outlets.