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How to use behavioural targeting in marketing effectively

How to use behavioural targeting in marketing effectively

By head of internet marketing at Unica, Akin Arikan.

Bad publicity has equated behavioural targeting to spying, but when used appropriately, it can help to combat intrusive advertisements and marketing messages to consumers.

Behavioural targeting can ensure you deliver relevant information and offers to your customers, resulting in greater loyalty to your brand. 

Akin Arikan, head of internet marketing at marketing software company Unica, outlines the steps for a successful, customer-friendly approach to behavioural targeting:

Step one: Understand your approach

It is important to understand the two main methods of behavioural targeting before determining which is the best fit for your customer service and business strategy. 

1. Site side behavioural targeting

This uses web analytics to analyse data about customers’ behaviour online.  This information can then be used to recommend and personalise marketing actions, such as follow-up emails, online offers or more traditional, targeted direct mail pieces. Site side behavioural targeting is akin to event-based marketing online.  

If your favourite online bookseller recommends new titles available by an author you’ve recently searched on or purchased a book by, chances are they are using site side behavioural targeting.

2. Behavioural ad targeting

This collects customer information based on cookies or data through internet service providers (which can be problematic if the customer is not informed that this is happening).  This data is processed and used to ‘serve’ a specific advert to the consumer, targeted to their latest activity. 

For example, after browsing a travel site for holidays to Mallorca, you may then visit another website and spot a banner ad promoting discounted flights and hotels for Spain.  This is likely not a coincidence.

Step two: Respect your customer’s privacy

Whichever approach you’ve decided to take with behavioural targeting, it is essential that your customers know that you will be using it.  Make sure that you communicate that their personal data is not being shared – and stick to this agreement!

Businesses need to ensure that they have an open, easy to understand privacy policy.  Ideally, customers should be required to opt into (or at least have the opportunity to opt out of) any behavioural targeting activity.

Behavioural ad targeting outside your own site should always be based on anonymous information, such as search terms and URLs visited.  This is to avoid ‘spying’ on and ‘following’ your customers throughout their online activities without their knowledge.

Site side targeting, on the other hand, is part of the customer relationship and permits taking click and customer data into account for targeted marketing activities, as long as the customer is aware that you are doing this.

Step three: Keep it relevant

Behavioural targeting is about listening to your customers and interpreting their actions - the aim being to personalise marketing communications so that it feels like a service, rather than an intrusion.

Just as a good sales assistant would do in a shop, behavioural targeting allows you to pay attention to your customers’ browsing and buying habits online and to provide them with relevant information (or offers) at the appropriate time.

Getting the balance right can help you to improve relationships with your customers as well as to increase sales and maintain their loyalty.

Step four: Be consistent

Consistency goes hand in hand with relevancy and is crucial for a successful behavioural targeting strategy.

Customers expect a similar experience from a brand regardless of the channel they use to reach it, so if your business’ online, in-store and call centre marketing departments are not aligned, the customer will notice and all of your online targeting efforts may be for naught.

Avoid sending a customer a voucher for a new phone they have just returned because they were dissatisfied, for example.

Sending a follow-up email after their visit to the shop or an offer for free minutes or text messages when they next log onto your website is more appropriate. Show that you’ve acknowledged their complaint and that you value their business.

Step five:  Pay attention to customer responses

Carefully evaluate your customer contacts and the history of their responses to determine whether they find any targeted content you’ve offered useful.

If a customer hasn’t clicked on information or multiple offers targeted to them on your website or in personalised emails, then it is generally not recommended to continue targeting them with the same content.

In conclusion

It is our job as marketers to educate and reassure consumers that behavioural targeting can greatly benefit them and it is about providing a service.  Whether you focus on site side or behavioural ad targeting, it is essential that you respect your customers and ensure their privacy.

The most effective approach to behavioural targeting doesn’t stop with online activity; it ensures that your organisation provides positive and consistent marketing messages and communications to your customers across all of the channels in which they interact with your brand.

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