Stretch Behavioral Targeting to the Site Experience

In a recent Avenue A/Razorfish report, the authors discuss a “segment-variant” version of Web sites to create different site experiences for different customer segments. Though the report mainly tackles Web development, this brilliant concept offers opportunity for behavioral targeting.

If behavioral targeting can help increase product relevance to a specifically targeted audience, should it also be applied to site layout and design to create the most optimal conversion environment?

In other words, what if the site experience is behaviorally targeted to a user?

Different Folks Require Different Strokes

Segmentation is critical to help advertisers understand the target audience’s psychological and behavioral profiles. Advertisers use segmentation to develop creative that speaks specifically to the target and creates specific media strategies to reach the intended groups.

If banner creative is tailored to speak relevantly to the audience, shouldn’t the site experience be targeted, too?

To a certain degree, large e-tailers such as Amazon.com and Overstock already have behavioral-esque targeted site interfaces to enhance user experience. Functions such as shopping cart history, recommendations, and other preference settings are examples of personalization and customization based on historical user activity to increase product marketing and site relevance.

Behavior-Based Site Experience

Despite the fact broadband penetration has reached an all-time high, plenty of people still dial up to access the Web. This digital divide could represent the difference between an experienced online user who downloads music and purchases electronic gear, and a not-so-savvy user who uses the medium for email only and still believes AOL is the Internet.

The USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future’s 2004 Internet report clearly shows dial-up users exhibit very different (and somewhat primitive) online behaviors and activities than their broadband counterparts. It’s both strategic and intuitive to dynamically tailor site navigation and layout to reflect the type of users who visit sites. For example, a dial-up user only uses the Web for communications (email) and simple searches. She probably doesn’t need all the bells and whistles as a part of her site experience, as her connection speed limits any enhanced functionalities.

What This Means for Online Media

Many media folks are responsible for online media on a daily basis. We rarely touch Web development, as it’s technically not a part of the media premise.

Despite the fact media and Web development are (for the most part) still siloed as independent online disciplines, clients often assess marketing performance as a collective sum, rather than as individuals parts. If the media effort successfully drives traffic to the site, poor navigation can significantly affect the overall conversion rate.

This mutually exclusive (but collectively exhaustive) relationship calls for more integration between media and Web design disciplines to deliver the optimal output.

In its most demystified form, behavioral targeting is about improving consumers’ online experience. Ultimately, it maps advertising messaging to consumer online behaviors to increase product relevance. Given the intimate relationship banners have with Web sites, it makes perfect sense for behavioral targeting to expand its realm, from mere impression-based delivery to overall Web site experience.

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