Ross Timms, strategy director at Rufus Leonard, argues that eBay’s new Mood Marketing tool is an evolutionary leap into a new way to design.
The digitally-driven shift in shopper’s expectations puts pressure on all retailers, not just those who are more bricks than clicks. And at the heart of this shift sits data – what people are willing to share and, what they expect in return.
Most online shoppers today are perfectly aware of, and comfortable, with their browsing behaviours being monitored and used by brands. It is, however, what they expect in return that creates new pressures on any retailer with an online presence.
Personalisation has become expected. What started with product recommendations based on purchase history has very quickly become a benchmark that almost any purchase or retail interaction is measured against. We’re pretty much at the point where if a retailer can’t personalise the customer experience, then they are out of consideration.
With eBay’s new Mood Marketing tool, that has been extended to digital advertising. eBay isn't positioning it as a sales tool but as a tool designed to “help people to buy”, and this makes sense as eBay has both a very diverse inventory and very high shopper traffic volumes.
It has taken this vast data-set to create a way for advertisers to anticipate the mood an individual is in when he or she is browsing the site. The pitch here is that advertisers are now free of the arbitrary and risky strategy of positioning ads based on the day of the week, the time of day or the location of the audience. They can leverage eBay’s vast and powerful data to accurately predict and position the most effective ad based on an individual’s behaviour in the moment.
This is potentially very exciting for brands that care about their end-to-end experience. This tool makes it possible to build a customer journey that starts with the ad and flows through to their digital experience as seamlessly as possible. By making an ad that’s useful and personalised to a need, behaviour or mood right in the moment, that brand is able to get a clear purpose across, right at the moment when they are most receptive, proving that it knows how to follow through.
With this additional level of accuracy, a brand can change its view of digital advertising and can genuinely include it in the design of the overall customer journey. Supported by eBay’s re-framing from selling to helping to buy, there’s now a great deal of increased scope to make the ad the first moment of truth. For example, by bringing even simple functionality forward to this point of the journey, an online grocer can help the customer start their shopping list or book their delivery slot. A fashion retailer can include stock availability next to the items for sale, and an airline can offer a flash sale with the ability to book a flight right there in the ad.
The opportunity is that those, and hundreds of other better ideas, are unlocked by the confidence that a brand can gain from truly useful personalisation and behavioural data. Businesses that are brand experience-savvy will quickly realise the potential and take the evolutionary leap into a new way to design for this moment in the customer journey. Businesses that are not so savvy will quickly fall behind the ever-changing consumer expectations and will begin to look out of touch.
It’s not all upside, and getting it wrong comes with risks. The trick at the heart of this is not simply access to the data and the tool, but understanding people’s behaviours and therefore utilising it successfully. It won’t be enough to simply bring a payment gateway forward in the journey, and getting it wrong risks doing more harm than good.
The Mood Marketing tool can only be as good as a brand’s understanding of its customers – their needs and their behaviours. Without this baseline for comparison, using any tool as potentially powerful as this one raises the risk of creating an ‘uncanny valley’, the strange feeling you get when you use a digital service that knows just enough about you to create a personal experience, but fails to use what it knows to make it feel natural. You’re left feeling like a robot is offering to give you a foot massage – when what you wanted was a new pair of shoes. An undesirable outcome for everyone involved.
So this is a tool to be embraced, like any tool that has the potential to better align what someone needs or wants with a brand’s offer - just as long as it’s embraced in the right way, and with the right level of insight fuelling its use. Get those two things right and your brand experience can extend ever further in search of new customers.
Ross Timms is strategy director at Rufus Leonard