Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Online Personalization: Issue Is With People Not Technology

Today I came across an article by Isaac Weisberg, titled Unintended Consequences of Targeting: Less Information, Less Serendipity – Part I. In this article Isaac argues that online personalization limits the exposure of information to the individuals. I agree that current personalization practices are very limited though it is more of an issue with the marketers engaged in personalization than with the technology. ( Note: Retargeting, Behavioral Targeting, on-site recommendations, customized emails etc. are all different forms of personalization). So it is not Personalization that limits the flow of information but it is the people engaged in Personalization.

The purpose of personalization is to provide information that is relevant to an individual and in order to do so you will eliminate a lot of information that the person is not likely to be interested in. However that does not mean that the person cannot be exposed to new information with the personalization.

The issue is that most of the marketers engaged in personalization (targeting) do not exploit the full potential of personalization and limit themselves to basic targeting. I highlighted one such issues in my post 5 Questions to ask before starting a Retargeting Campaign.

Personalization does not mean that you have to limit yourself to the same product or even the category. User’s behavior gives you a clue on what he/she likes. Use that to figure out complimentary items that you might be able to promote and even items that don’t make sense together but you have seen patterns from sales data that tell you that they might go together. E.g. particular pair of shoes is bought by lots of moms, so maybe kids’ shoes might make sense to promote to a user who has shown interest in those shoes. Isn’t that flow of information to the user?
I once worked with a client who used two mutually exclusive behaviors (people who read financial news and view international weather) to promote a totally unrelated product (high end international travel) with a great success.

So, yes exposing people to new information while doing personalization is quite possible as long as marketers doing the personalization are willing to use their creativity and move beyond their comfort zone.

Questions? Comments?

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Monday, December 13, 2010

HiPPO: Wrong Advice That Will Get You In Trouble

HiPPO is an overly used in the web analytics community to make the web analysts feel good. But this term, in my opinion, does more harm than good to you.

Though I meant to write this post a long time ago, today a post by Steve Jackson - HiPPO could be your best friend finally prompted me to write it.

For those how don’t know, HiPPO is a term used to describe the opinion of the Highest Paid Person (HiPP) i.e. Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. This terms basically says that the person who gets paid the most (it assumes that this person is also the highest authority position) will make decisions that are not based on any facts but rather based on his/her gut feel. As a result his/her opinions are generally wrong. Really? Do you really think that they got into their position by giving wrong opinions?

Some experts even encourage analysts to publicly embarrass HIPPOs by proving them wrong? Really? How do you think it is going to help you? Will you have a job tomorrow?

As an analyst, your job is to help your organization make better and smarter decision by using the information you gain from the data. How is calling Highest Paid Person a HiPPO or embarrassing your boss in public going to help it?

To make your point and get someone to listen to you, you have to make friends and not enemies. Just thinking that all the opinions expressed by the HiPP are wrong and not based on fact will automatically put you in either a defensive or an offensive mode instead of a collaborative mode. You need collaboration to succeed. Web analytics is still not integrated into business optimization process and the wrong attitude towards HiPPO will hinder it further.

Think about this, if you are an analyst attacking a HiPP in the room, who do you think will win at end?

Thoughts? Comments?

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

FTC’s Proposed Privacy Framework

FTC’s proposed a framework to protect the privacy of consumers. Part of this framework is a “Do Not Track” option that has raised a lot of questions among the web analytics and advertising community. Well since this is just a proposal at this stage nobody knows how it will finally pan out. At this point FTC has published the report to seek public comments. The report that FTC has put together is 122 pages long. I have extracted some important point from that report in case you don’t have the time to read the full report.

The basic building blocks of this framework are:

  • Scope: The framework applies to all commercial entities that collect or use consumer data that can be reasonably linked to a specific consumer, computer, or other device.

    Note: This is not limited only those who collect PII data, if you collect any information about a consumer then this applies to you. However commission is seeking input on how to determine
    “reasonably linked to a specific consumer…”
  • Privacy by Design: Companies should promote consumer privacy throughout their organizations and at every stage of the development of their products and services.
    • Companies should incorporate substantive privacy protections into their
      practices, such as data security, reasonable collection limits, sound
      retention practices, and data accuracy.
    • Companies should maintain comprehensive data management procedures
      throughout the life cycle of their products and services.

      Note: You might need to assign a person to oversee that privacy of data is built into your products/services/process etc. Think, “Chief Privacy officer”.
      • Ensure physical data protection
      • Do not collect what is not required
      • Do not retain data for longer than it is required
      • Ensure accuracy of the data so that you do not harm someone because of the inaccurate data
  • Simplified Choice: Consumers face considerable burdens in understanding lengthy privacy policies and effectively exercising any available choices based on those policies. Under proposed framework, companies should simplify consumer choice.

    • Companies do not need to provide choice before collecting and using consumers’ data for commonly accepted practices, such as product fulfillment.
      This also includes tracking for improving the sites (Web Analytics), fraud protections, legal compliance and first party marketing.
    • For practices requiring choice, companies should offer the choice at a time and in a context in which the consumer is making a decision about his or her data.
  • Greater Transparency: Companies should increase the transparency of their data practices.
    • Privacy notices should be clearer, shorter, and more standardized, to enable better comprehension and comparison of privacy practices.
    • Companies should provide consumers with reasonable access to data about themselves; the extent of access should depend on the sensitivity of the data and the nature of its use.
    • Companies must provide prominent disclosures and obtain affirmative express consent before using consumer data in a materially different manner than claimed when the data was collected.
    • All stakeholders should work to educate consumers about commercial data privacy practices.
Feel free to leave a comment if I missed anything. You can read the full report at

Read my other articles on Privacy

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