Where does ad personalization end and privacy invasion begin? No one has the ultimate answer--not me, not you, not the publisher, and not even the customer at the heart of the problem. Is there a way to balance the scales, or are we just chasing pavements in a world where customer trust is slowly declining and their reluctance towards sponsored content is increasing.

Behavioral advertising in a perfect world

John has been seriously thinking of taking up yoga, and after reading a couple of related articles, he decided to buy a yoga mat. He might say to himself “Why not?” and buy it.

John is happy - he found a product that fits his needs and interests. The seller is happy because his revenue is growing, his business is expanding, his customer is satisfied and most probably will come visit him again or recommend him to another friend.

Among online businesses, Amazon is probably the only one close to that ideal. In the real world, all parties are struggling to protect their interests.

Facing the reality

Kathy asked Google to help her figure out how to cure her skin rash, and the next day she notices an ad of some anti-acne or anti-aging cream following her around everywhere: on her Facebook feed, in her favorite online magazine, etc. Kathy is indignant, she feels that her private life has been leaked to where she never wanted it to be displayed, and she starts associating negative emotions with the advertised product.

No one benefits from this situation.

There is no answer to what’s right and wrong when it comes to collecting data, because people are different, and so are their preferences and concerns.

Online privacy has been an acute problem since the beginning. As more and more people realize that all their actions are tracked (in many cases tracking is used against users), they start to actively protect themselves. Either they develop a negative attitude towards advertising in general, or (and) they use adblocking tools. None of them is good if you are a fair player.

We are preparing something for you at Outreach 2016. Curious? Check out our latest program:

Finding a balance

Regardless of whether you track your customers’ behavior onsite or buy the data from advertising networks - the richer it is, the more valuable it’s for e-commerce.

And here is the major trap for most of the businesses that are trying to sell their products no matter what: they don’t know how to handle such a big amount of data so their customer feels trust and safety towards them.

Behavior targeting is a complex issue with its advantages and disadvantages for companies and end-users. To find the balance, both parties should join the discussion. We see three areas that might be worth everyone’s attention:

  • Transparency and honesty with your customers regarding what you, as a company are tracking; how the data entrusted to you is used, and what are the results of said data usage.
  • Freedom of choice. Giving a control to your customers over the data they are sharing might bring you the trust of the customers. They will feel more secure, and thus build a positive image of your company.
  • Education. People should be aware of how advertising works, and how big data collection improves their browsing experience. But they should also know what risks this collection entails and whether advertisers or big data companies are willing to protect them from these risks.

As a speaker or an expert, if you have anything valuable and enlightening to add to the debate, don’t hesitate to share. New perspectives on data protection and effective advertising in the online era are welcome and will be appreciated.

We have dedicated 4 sessions to discuss psychological factors, privacy, persona analysis pertaining to online behavior on day 1 of Outreach 2016. Download the agenda to get the complete program.