In the spirit of Halloween this year, we give you…“The Stalkers.”

You are seated around a campfire. It’s dark and cool enough for gloves and a cup of hot, pumpkin-spiced cocoa. It all starts as a fun night…Bobby pulls out his guitar and we sing along to “Monster Mash.” Jamal cooks up some s’mores, and someone else (I’m looking at you, Rosa) busts out a flask.

The perfect setting for a creepy tale.  I put the lit flashlight under my chin and begin….

Late one autumn night, Ava was sitting at home, alone, perusing the internet and social media, and doing a little online shopping. She browsed a few sites, and even put things into a cart so as to not forget them. Towards the end of her shopping journey that night, Ava discovered that an item she had been eying for a while had a new promotional price, and she was excited to finally pull the trigger and make the purchase. 

Alas, when she got to the checkout, her coveted item showed “sold out.” More than a bit irritated and decidedly let down, Ava shut down her iPad and decided to turn in for the night.

A few hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, Ava’s phone pinged, startling her out of a deep slumber. Half asleep, she glanced at the screen only to see the message, “I saw you shopping tonight, what about that scarf in your cart?” Ava thought it was odd but dismissed it that perhaps she had messaged a friend about the scarf and forgot.

But then, the phrase “I saw you shopping.” A little creepy. Maybe more than a little.

Ava’s pulse quickened. “It’s nothing,” she tried to convince herself, “Go back to sleep.”

Shutting her eyes, Ava laid back down. But then—another ping. “That’s a really nice, red sweater you bought last week. These pants would look great with it.” Wide awake now, with trembling hands, Ava frantically checked the sender of these nocturnal messages.

Ava quickly realized she was being stalked. Not just stalked, but cyber stalked…

by her favorite retailer.

You know what I’m talking about, you’ve all been there. If you’re a retailer you may even be guilty of being the stalker. It’s that thing…where a customer browses a website, maybe even puts an item or two in a cart—but doesn’t cross the finish line.

Then, the stalking begins. Customers get emails with ostensibly personal messages, “Hey, you seemed to like this pasta machine—come back for 25% off.” The pasta machine starts showing up in social media ads. The pasta machine appears in randomly created ads on the side of news articles you read (unrelated to pasta).

The pasta machine is everywhere and has invaded every waking and sleeping moment.

With the increasing prevalence of online “stalking,” retailers must really start to evaluate the click-through and conversion associated with their personalized, targeted ads, as well as the number of unsubscribes that come along with these types of activities. Retailers need to filter the stalking to those customers who actually responded in the past versus those with whom they have had 0% luck. These messages can be considered tremendously annoying to consumers, and they easily get lost with the hundreds of junk emails an individual can receive every day. It’s one thing for a single follow-up email but stalking across the entire spider web of browsing not only makes a retailer look like a stalker—and adds to the growing apprehension about consumer data privacy—but that messaging becomes simply more “noise” which ultimately gets ignored or worse, results in an “unsubscribe me.” Retailers need to be considerate of their customers, tame the aggressiveness of their follow-up, as well as measure the effectiveness of these follow-ups.

Deep in the dark hallows of the corporate offices, do your merchants and marketers have the information they need to evaluate the effectiveness of their targeted ad campaigns? And do they have the information to know when enough is enough? All these considerations need to be leveraged using the data available in your BI systems and can be further enhanced through the use of advanced analytics. Your organization and supporting systems need to be nimble enough to incorporate additional metrics as the world of retail continues to evolve to allow your teams to make the most informed decisions that have the biggest impact on your bottom line. You also need to consider your own online experiences, and what will turn you off from a particular retailer. Bottom line: treat your customers as you would treat your yourself, but without the tricks.

Please excuse me while I go make some fresh pasta and have a happy Halloween.


Published On: October 30, 2019Categories: Consumer Behavior, Heidi Csencsits, Holidays, Omnichannel, Omnichannel Maturity