Targeted ads make consumers more likely to shop: HBR
- Research by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) uncovered that the perception of behavioral targeting for ads makes consumers more likely to want to make a purchase, as well as cause a shift in how they perceive themselves.
- When undergrad students participating in the survey thought ads were targeted to them based on online behavior they were more interested in buying the advertised product than if they believed it was targeted by demographic information or not targeted at all.
- The implication of this research is the perception of being personally targeted by online ads has a direct influence on consumer behavior.
There was an additional follow-up study to test the role of targeting accuracy. This research found that behavioral targeting had to be at least moderately accurate, defined as plausibly connected to past behavior, or the ad would be rejected.
HBR said marketers should consider that behavior targeting might have an impact beyond clickthroughs and conversions, and stands to benefit brands with strong personalities. Brand marketers should be aware that behavioral targeted ads might strengthen a trait that could result in people purchasing from similar brands, inadvertently benefiting the competition. However, transparency benefits both consumers and marketers since the effect only happened when study participants knew the ads were targeted based on their browsing history.
"Given that the ads in our studies were not actually matched to participants’ behavior — we merely created the perception that they were — we expect that effects may be even stronger in the real world when behaviorally targeted ads are more accurate," the authors of the HBR article on the studies wrote.