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Customized for your profile?

With all the discussion about how daily deal emails are the silver bullet to making a profit on the Internet, I signed up for a couple of lists. Not only did I sign up for different lists, I also signed up for the same lists from different addresses.
One of those programs touts that they send me offers tailored to me. Except that the offers I get at Hotmail are different than the ones I get at Gmail are different from the ones I get elsewhere.
So how tailored is this really? In general there is no difference with how I interact with the mail in those various accounts, so that profile is the same. And, well, the person behind the addresses is all the same. If the ads were specially chosen for me, why am I getting different ones at different accounts? Is this particular marketer simply randomly assigning offers and claiming they’re targeted? How many other mailers claim to send ads tailored to my profile, and then just throw the profile out the window and send whatever they want to send today?
This isn’t to say that there aren’t a some marketers that do pay attention to recipient profiles. But I’m starting to wonder if the majority of “targeting” is more lip service than reality.
What do other people think?

5 comments

  1. pgl says

    Seems unlikely from how you’ve described it, but could it be a product of the marketers constantly doing split testing?

  2. Tom Kulzer says

    Could be split tests, but it also could be because you have a blank profile from a recent sign up and they are making offers based on how subscribers who use those domains behave. I’ve rarely seen it done in the wild, but you didn’t say who it was that you signed up for so it’s hard to say how sophisticated their program might be.
    Yes, we see different behavior based on the domain of the recipient when looked at on a massive aggregate scale.

    1. laura says

      An interesting point, Tom: domain usage points to certain behaviour on the part of the recipient. I think, though, that the flaw is I am the same person no matter what email address I use to sign up for something. Which leads into something I’ve been thinking about in terms of targeting and best practices and will probably need to sit down and write.

  3. Matt -@emailkarma says

    I truly think it’ll be a little of A and a little bit of B. Some marketers look at a split test as targeting, while others have very complex logic behind them. As a recipient it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference.

  4. Huey says

    I think there’s a really interesting issue at the core of this. If all you have is an email address and a few interactions from which to draw conclusions, how do you target? Like I told you earlier, it seems like the reverse of the e-pending problem, looking at the profile of a person and trying to guess their email address. If all you have is an email address, how do you guess the profile of the person behind it?
    Does doing it in reverse necessarily have to be easier than the forward-direction e-pending problem? Seems like guessing an email address is harder to get right, and getting the profile wrong has fewer negative consequences.
    Ultimately, I think both problems boil down to one basic issue: how much information do you, the consumer, want the advertiser to have about you? Maybe if you’ve just started remodeling your kitchen and the store right up the street has a planer on sale that will come in really handy when you’re making your own cabinets, you want that store to know that you’re a power-tool nut in their neighborhood. …or maybe you don’t.
    …and does the consumer even GET to make that decision anymore? Or can we just assume that the store is trying, with varying degrees of success, to find that out by themselves?

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