Before the Internet, retail shopping was a very personal experience. Customers participated in an interpersonal exchange with a salesperson. There was a lot of interaction and communication. Salespeople had the opportunity to pay attention to customers and learn about their preferences.
Most online merchants have tried to duplicate and even improve upon that experience and many have had some success in engaging and converting customers better by using customer data.
Most server software will automatically record a web log of browsing habits: what pages users visit, the time and duration of those visits, advertisements viewed and clicked on during those visits, purchases made, query terms entered in search engines, and the referring website that directed the user to the company’s page. Furthermore, most software will automatically obtain information about each user’s IP address, computer name, browser type, email address (if provided by the user’s browser or a “web bug”), network owner, and domain registration.
For quite some time now, data collection and analysis have aided retailers in making the shopping experience more personal, and thereby more effective.
However, some of this data collection can actually get in the way of the relationship between shopper and merchant. Given recent news stories about security breaches, hacking and online monitoring, there is growing concern regarding privacy issues related to ecommerce. Some privacy rights groups, such as The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org), advise shoppers to be aware of cookies and behavioral marketing techniques.
In short, the point is that most people nowadays don’t want to feel “tracked” across the internet by a sneaky retailer. So, what’s a savvy online retailer to do when trying to effectively marketing goods and services without triggering sensitivities regarding online privacy?
Rather than guiding the shopping experience through the behind-the-scene collection of customer data, many merchants are choosing a more direct, honest approach to personalize the shopping experience. Using a personal shopping assistant application (PSAA), like that from BestMatch, retailers can understand specific details about their customer and recommend the most appropriate products as a way to deliver a satisfying (and efficient) shopping experience to their customers.