Alok Kejriwal

Look Mama, They Are (re) Targeting Me!

So, let's assume that you know a man, with a...errr... problem. You know the kind of problem I'm talking about. The one that happens in the bedroom; the one we all read about and say, "Thank God this hasn't happened to me!" It's the problem that men develop when they have bad jobs, bad bosses, bad cars and bad everything. It's a bad problem that needs a Blue Pill.

But so what? God never made everyone equal and was quite unjust in distributing problems too. But man created the Internet which is equal for all of us! Well, at least for the most of us.

So, Mr. Problem confides in you. And in all earnestness, you ask him to "google around" to check out pharmacists and drug suppliers that can supply him the little Blue Pill - discreetly, couriered to his home, in innocuous brown packages and billed as "car repairs" (or cable repairs?!) on his credit card bill. (Obviously this is not the Cash on Delivery kind of delivery you would suggest).

Mr. Problem takes your advice and ‘browses' around one lazy weekend, looking for Blue Pill options. He doesn't make any purchases, but at least gets the process going.

Then the mad week begins. And that's just when Mr. Problem begins to start calling you in absolute panic. Trembling over the phone he says, "Boss, I'm so embarrassed. On Monday, I was making a presentation to all the business heads and when I went up to a live website to showcase what our competition was doing, right on top, staring at me, in front of twelve people was this big broad ad selling me the Blue Pill. People began staring at me, instead of the projector screen. That idiot in sales even chuckled!"

The rambling continues… "At home, my wife ordered me to cook Palak Paneer and when I requested her to look up the recipe for me on my laptop, the Blue Pill ad popped right up at her. She just stared at me and asked, "Shall I print the recipe with the ad on it too?"

By the end of the week he almost sobs and says, "Bhai, I'm scared to go to the web now. What happens if the Blue Pill comes wherever I go? How on earth do I get rid of this menace?"

You console him and tell him that you will get back with some solutions – but in the bottom of your heart you know that your friend is a victim of the all pervasive, invasive and untiring method of Internet advertising best known as ‘retargeting'.

For those who were born before the 90s, let me explain what retargeting is. It's a web technology of placing cookies (not the ones that your ex-girlfriend's mom made) on websites that consumers visit to buy things but then fail to complete the purchase. This usually happens at the checkout page, payment gateway options area etc., where the consumer ‘abandons' the purchase mid-way despite having the intent to buy.

Now, unlike traditional shopping where you are free to browse around as many stores as you want and then walk out as a free bird, the Internet behaves differently. Once you ‘want' to buy something, you are marked ‘WANTED'!

Let's forget your friend for a moment. Think of the Blue Pill Company. It's a Big Fortune 500 Company! Why would someone of that stature pursue your friend like Inspector Pradyuman and his band of cronies (from the famous television show ‘CID')…?

It's a matter of ‘Dhandha' baba! Hard-hitting statistics reveal:

- Out of the 100 people who visit a web store to buy things, only 2% actually buy something. 98% leave empty handed

- When ‘retargeted' ads are shown to consumers, 26% return to the original website they had abandoned vs. 8% who would return via normal ads. That's a three times more!

Seems fair and square? If you visit me, show intent to buy and then leave unannounced; then I have the right (or opportunity) to digitally stalk you..?

Amongst Marwaris, there is a phrase called ‘mota-moti' (which means "the crux of"). So this is my mota-moti view of Retargeting:

- Respect your visitors. Stalking them endlessly will make them abhor you. My wife just complained to me that a Rohit Bal outfit she checked out on some e-com store chased her all over the web! She doesn't like Rohit Bal now !

- Warren Buffet famously said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." I think, he would definitely include ‘retargeting' in the "doing things differently" agenda!

- Don't do something because the technology exists. Do it only if it is natural, normal and creates joy for your consumer; not because it feeds the false ego of your marketing manager.

- Serendipity is a wonderful thing! Ask any shop keeper about ‘surprise' customers who walk in and make heavy purchases, just by chance. So, advertise with a wish, not a curse!

Now, if you haven't realized it by now, I have placed a retargeting cookie in your eyes just because you have read my article. That means every time I write again, you will be chased and hounded!

Haha! Just kidding!!

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