How Comfortable are Consumers with Targeting on Amazon, Google and Facebook?

A couple days ago Harris Interactive released findings from a study to measure consumer comfort levels with receiving targeted offers from three prominent online services.  According to the study, 66% of consumers are comfortable with receiving targeted offers and personalized product recommendations from Amazon.com based on their transaction or browsing history.  41% of consumers are comfortable with receiving targeted offers (presumably in the form of search ads) from Google based on search history, and 33% are comfortable with Facebook serving up targeted offers within its ad system based on a consumer’s social profile data.

The results, while not altogether surprising, do shed light on the social advertising landscape and the challenges for Facebook and Google to overcome consumer privacy concerns as they relate to ad targeting directly on their own sites.

The wording of the Harris Interactive survey, which asked consumers about their comfort level with “targeted offers”, clearly implies an eCommerce context.  As a retail company, it is naturally within Amazon.com’s purview to serve up personalized offers in the context of facilitating commerce.  But consumers do not as easily associate Google or Facebook with commerce, despite the advent of f-commerce.  Google is still perceived by most consumers as a navigation portal to the rest of the web, and Facebook is seen as a way to interact with friends, thus causing many of us to be less amenable to targeted offers from either service.

However, as consumers, we’ve been conditioned over the years to understand and appreciate Amazon.com’s personalization feature.  Amazon.com is transparent and provides clear messaging to shoppers and customers that new products are recommended based on “items you’ve viewed” or past purchases.

Amazon Recommendations

Amazon.com’s model of targeting is far less nascent a concept than Google targeting users based on their search history or Facebook targeting based on social profile data.

It is also important to emphasize that the Harris Interactive findings are not an indictment of using social profile data to offer more personalized experiences or improve targeting on your own site.  Consumer research we commissioned last October shows that a majority (51%) of consumers are open to a more personalized site experience from social login.  This is due to the fact that social login enables true permission-based marketing, because consumers have the choice to grant permission to their social profile data when registering on a brand’s site.

What’s our conclusion from Harris Interactive’s study?  To us, the key takeaway is that consumers will respond positively to targeting and personalization, but such efforts need to be within the right context, and brands need to be transparent about what consumer data they rely on and how it is applied.