Targeting the Mobile Shopper: What's Creepy?

As more consumers use their smartphones and tablets while they shop, more marketers are going to try to reach them to help influence what they buy.

Speaking earlier today at MediaPost’s OMMA data-driven marketing conference, a Macy’s executive referred to the perceived “creepy” factor in online behavioral advertising and suggested that attendees try to reframe the discussion so that people no longer focus on the creepy factor the media has emphasized in a negative way. She suggested that marketers focus on how they remove clutter from a consumer's life.

 The reality is that the creepy factor in mobile commerce is still in its infancy.

 Research shows that in-store shoppers search the retailer’s website while they shop. When they receive an ad relative to what they’re shopping for, some people may consider it to be a valued service, while others may consider it an intrusive promotion as they attempt to make a considered purchase.



 There are many associated issues around targeting of mobile shoppers. A few examples: 

  • When a mobile shopper searches the retailer’s website and receives an ad based on their last social media discussion with friends, how will they view it? 
  • As more sales associates are equipped with mobile devices to roam the aisles in search of customers to assist, what customer information will they access on those screens and which customers will care? 
  • Will pinging a customer with an offer as they pass a certain product be viewed as creepy or valued? Some grocery stores already do this, by offering coupons on products in close proximity to where a shopper just scanned one.

Technology like Square Wallet already is in place to let a person at checkout know you are in the store, nearby and ready to pay, just by tapping your phone.

I’d be very interested in any examples you would view as either creepy or highly valued in mobile commerce. What would you see as most creepy?


10 comments about "Targeting the Mobile Shopper: What's Creepy?".
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  1. Erika Kotite from Kotite Media Group LLC, January 23, 2013 at 2:39 p.m.

    It isn't exactly a mobile reachout, but creepy nonetheless. A voice urges me (rather unintelligibly) to try a wine other than the one I'm reaching for in the spirits aisle at Ralph's. It makes me want to make my selections quickly and scurry on. I hope it's not a harbinger of the future, where dozens of digitized voices are hawking wares on the shelves like a Kafka-esque county fair.

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, January 23, 2013 at 3 p.m.

    Right Timo, but this is still a somewhat tricky course, that is, full allowing mobile to be a pull rather than a push. But I do get your cross-channel viewpoint.

  3. Stan Valinski from Multi-Media Solutions Group, January 23, 2013 at 3:04 p.m.

    Love Erika's analogy...makes for a great short. I see mobile as a Frankenstein monster that we should collectively create with care. Otherwise it could get out of control and be seriously misunderstood and feared by the masses.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, January 23, 2013 at 3:35 p.m.

    Yes, Erika, that sounds like it could be fairly be rated as creepy, good one!

  5. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, January 23, 2013 at 3:37 p.m.

    Or Stan, it could just be that guy behind the curtain. But seriously, you are very right in that. And you know it will be that one horror story that gets tons of publicity.

  6. Bill Egan from eGifter, January 23, 2013 at 3:59 p.m.

    It seems that it's all about choice. Allowing a customer to opt in or out will make a big difference as will the perceived value of the service. A reminder that I have a great coupon, or gift card in my wallet as I enter a store is great. It's not creepy if you don't sneak up on people.

  7. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, January 23, 2013 at 4:02 p.m.

    Right, Bill, agree on both points of opt-in and perceived value. But it is that issue of sneaking up and the unexpected (and unwanted) solicitation that could cause problems.

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 23, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.

    Erika, I agree. Take it to the next steps. You don't buy the wine that is prompted to you, then those in control make sure when you check out on your mobile devise the costs increase or some other pejorative action. You can take it to the next levels on other beliefs and decisions. Yes, Google and other major corporations have control and power and finances invested in other controls in your life. Legality comes down to interpretation in many cases.

  9. Betsy Kent from Be Visible Associates, January 24, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.

    I agree with Timo and Bill. It's going to be fascinating to watch the industry overcome the creepiness challenge and figure out how marketers can provide the right value at the right time in the right context with the right kind of messaging.
    The best minds in the world are working on this...I'm excited to see what they come up with!

  10. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, January 24, 2013 at 10:23 a.m.

    And Betsy, it also is to be determined just what the mobile shoppers will be comfortable with, and if it segments by demographic in terms of acceptable, location-based messaging.

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