Do Consumers Really See Targeted Advertising as a Game?! We Investigate.

A recent consumer trends report found that customers are increasingly approaching marketing as a game—one in which they can take advantage of how companies and stores operate. For instance, 47% of consumers have tried to purchase travel tickets on days they believe prices will be lower, and 31% say that when shopping online, they’ll intentionally leave items in a “shopping basket” in hopes of receiving a discount from a store.

Savvy insights teams have long known about targeted marketing techniques like retargeting ads and serving dynamic page content based on highly tracked online activity. But now the gen pop consumers are catching up with these marketing trends and finding ways to “game the system” in a sense. We wanted to see how prevalent this activity is and learn a little more about the implications these consumer behaviors have on dynamic campaign strategies and their associated messaging.

What Say You?

We launched one of GutCheck’s proprietary Instant Research Groups to gather a quick consumer read on how customers are taking advantage of targeted advertising tactics and find out their perceptions around these marketing practices.

Our primary research objectives were to:

  • Explore consumer perceptions of targeted advertising based on tracking, including localized advertising, ads for stores they shop at, websites they have visited and shopper card specials.
  • Identify and understand the effectiveness of any tricks that consumers use to take advantage of this targeted advertising/marketing.

Our one-day study was comprised of 20 male and female respondents who stated that they take advantage of personalized advertising to get a deal or discount at least once every six months.

Consumers Know the Score

Even though our respondents’ ages ranged widely from 18 to 65, one thing was clear—they all knew about personalized marketing tactics and openly stated that finding a great deal almost always involves taking advantage of sales, promotions, a coupon, or a combination thereof.

IRG Respondent

I shop a LOT!  I usually find out sale info from reading websites or blogs. If I am going to a store where they have coupons I will look online to see if I can find any.

Female, 36
IRG Respondent

If I have a large purchase in mind such as appliances, furniture etc…I will visit several websites to compare prices and look for promotions. If I am shopping for everyday items I might be influenced by a circular or TV ad from a big box or grocery store. Depends on the item(s).

Male, 54

Although consumers are fully aware of targeted tactics they are somewhat split in their attitudes toward the personalized ads. Those who like personalized ads and find them helpful appreciate the convenience associated with receiving a coupon to save money on something they were planning on purchasing anyway. While others had negative opinions about the personalized ads. Some feel these ads are “creepy” or “invasive” and some thought they were possibly designed to trick a consumer into thinking they will receive a good deal.

IRG Respondent

They are helpful in most instances, however, I detest being emailed just to have the retailers name/product forced before me. In other words, send me a special email when you (retailer) TRULY have something on special for me.

Male, 44
IRG Respondent

I think they are helpful-they save me time and money. I know some people feel that it is an invasion of privacy, but as long as they aren’t stealing my social security number and they save me money, I’m ok with it.

Female, 47
IRG Respondent

I found it helpful only once! I was looking at a dress from Nordstrom and I received a personalized ad. Most often, I find them VERY creepy. I guess I know that there are records of what I look at and such – but it just disconcerting to see the shoes you were just looking at on website appear in the sidebar of another.

Female, 32

The Tricky Tactics

Our respondent group felt that the use of coupons combined with other promotions or discounts is effective for getting deals at traditional retailers. For finding the best online deals, our consumer group stated that searching for promotional codes, good timing of a purchase, or a post-purchase price match were the tactics they turned to most.

IRG Respondent

I have printed coupons directly from manufacturers’ sites and combined them with other promotional coupon deals to save the most on electronics. For me electronics cost the most and therefore I feel the urge to try to get the best discount that I can. Many coupons however do not allow stacking or combining so not always able to save as much as I would like too.

Male, 28
IRG Respondent

I search “(insert store here) online coupon” a lot. When traveling, I go on tourist websites looking for the best deals. I always check out a store’s website if there is something big that I’m considering purchasing.

Female, 20
IRG Respondent

I rarely pay for shipping on online orders. So I am constantly looking for free shipping codes. If they don’t offer free shipping on the website then I go to Retail Me Not and look for codes there. I also use Be Frugal and Ebates to get cashback bonuses on the things I do buy.

Female, 58

The Game Continues

Even though we found that consumers knew about the targeted tactics and had ways to take advantage of them. They also believed that companies are savvy enough to understand that some consumers use these money saving tactics. Our respondents believe this expectation is already priced into a company’s products since companies offer deals in the first place expecting to generate business. Consumers also expect that these deals generate repeat and referral business. As a result, consumers generally do not believe that any money savings “tricks” would be a surprise to companies.

IRG Respondent

Oh I think companies mark up their products enough that they are still making a profit when folks like me use these methods. And I bet there is a healthy balance of people who figure out the promo codes and people who have no clue. I’m thinking of my office – and I would say less than half of the people in my office probably go to the lengths that I would go to get a deal. So it evens out for the retailer. And like I said, they are still making a profit with me.

Female, 32
IRG Respondent

I think they understand their business and have monthly sales targets and revenue predictions they expect to meet. If they are a little behind or ahead of the projections I think they adjust accordingly. Also sure they are glad to make any sale on older discontinued items or models.

Male, 54

At the conclusion of the study one thing became abundantly clear, consumers will spend extra time to seek out what they perceive as a good deal. Sometimes the satisfaction that comes with thinking they got this great deal can be just as great as they pleasure of the purchase itself. Online retailers are aware of this need and are working to provide that little extra motivation for purchase, but some of these dynamic tactics are perceived as bordering on intrusive. Our research was able to reveal some specific implications that could help ensure the dynamic offers achieve maximum acceptance.

These implications include:

  • Offer an opportunity for consumers to actively participate in providing information about their shopping and product preferencesAllowing customers to have input may help increase trust in targeted ads for some and can help fine tune the offers to best meet consumer needs
  • Grocery store brands appear to be in the forefront of successful targeted advertisingFollowing the best practices established by these chains can be helpful in establishing a winning retargeting strategy
  • Retailers need to keep a pulse on evolving consumer shopping patterns This helps to gain and keep loyal customers through the use of differentiating non-price attributes or unique product offerings that will guard against the margin reduction that results from competitive shopping 

At GutCheck, we offer the quick consumer reads companies need to help them understand these buying preferences and can provide the feedback needed to ensure you are meeting your evolving customer needs with the right offer, at the right time. Whether it’s scheduled research or an unplanned question, we can provide the confidence you need to move your business forward.

We were able to uncover so many great insights from this study, we encourage you to download the full executive summary report to see all of the consumer shopping trends associated with personalized and targeted advertising.