eBay’s Mood Marketing: Emotion Based Ad Targeting

In the mood for marketing?

eBay is one of the world’s most successful online shopping websites with recent reports announcing that the site reached 165 million global active users in the third quarter of 2016, and so far this year a staggering 1 billion items have been listed on the site. With so much data at its disposal, eBay knows more than most eCommerce sites that shoppers’ behavioural patterns have become very unpredictable, with people shopping at different times on different days in different locations. This means that creating an effective digital strategy for brands has become more difficult than ever.

Reports have shown that customers are no longer loyal with their approach to shopping or to the brand(s) they shop with, so competition has risen sharply and the need to stand out has become an even more significant challenge that brands need to rise to. Statistics suggest that the best way to achieve this is through personalisation, as when shoppers go online they expect to have their data captured and the website tailor an offering around it. Although personalisation has been around for a number of years, it’s still not as sophisticated as it should be, but eBay’s new Mood Marketing approach could change that.

What is mood marketing?

Mood Marketing is a new tool developed as part of eBay’s Advertising Advanced Targeting solutions, which has been designed to help alleviate the current difficulties brands are experiencing. The tool uses anonymised behavioral data that has been split up into niche segments to target shoppers when browsing a site based on what they’re interested in at that specific moment, rather than what they are expected to be interested in. Once the mood of the shopper has been identified, the most relevant ad is served to them, therefore making the ad more relevant and the chance of engagement and that all-important click more likely.

We want to change the way that retailers think about engaging with shoppers online and help them to see that the most effective campaigns aren’t about selling, but about helping people to buy. Our scope of inventory means we can understand what a shopper is interested in at a given time, across a huge number of categories, and therefore pinpoint what mood they are in. It’s perfectly possible, for example, for a consumer to be planning festive activities, such as parties, on a Monday morning but many brands will be weighing ad spend to the end of the week. At this point, shoppers may have already purchased their party items, and brands will have missed a valuable opportunity to tap into their mindset. Worse still, they risk being perceived as irrelevant.

Rob Bassett, Head of UK and EU Multinational Advertising at eBay

eBay released the tool after running a pilot during the summer with the UK’s largest wine retailer, Laithwaites. The pilot identified shoppers who were recognised to be in a “summery” mindset and they were then served an ad from the brand’s summer-themed product lines. John Buffey, Head of eCommerce at Laithwaite’s Wine, said: “We have a diverse customer base, who are shopping at different times, in different ways and for different reasons. Rather than just targeting them at certain points in the week or in specific weather conditions, we wanted to complement the mood they are already in, and offer them ads that improved their shopping experience. This pilot has definitely made marketing by mood a priority for us in future campaigns.”

What is the opportunity for brands?

There are many opportunities here for brands. eBay has identified a vast range of moods which can be applied, so whether you’re looking to target consumers who are in a summery mood, the mood for a party, the mood for an adventurous weekend away or the mood for cooking, the chances are eBay will be able to accommodate it. The approach also enables brands to be more creative and means they can move away from the traditional marketing models. This, in turn, means that the customer journey is a much more seamless experience and, critically, gives the shopper a helpful and intuitive service.

This is the true benefit of Mood Marketing, and one that links into Google’s Moment Marketing and the core tenet of personalisation: empowering the user. Shoppers no longer want to have to click around a website, trying to find something that should be simple to track down. They want the right thing at the right time, especially on mobile, and that means understanding them and how they use an eCommerce website.

Bassett continued: “We may have started with summer mindsets, but the Mood Marketing concept can be applied to many themes: from buying a home to purchasing Christmas decorations. We believe it represents a real step forward in making ads more relevant, inspiring and useful to shoppers, and that it will take the guesswork out of planning campaigns.”

What are the risks?

As is often the case when data is used as a marketing tool, there are risks as well as benefits. The tool is only as good as the brand’s understanding of its customer, therefore there is the chance that customers may get served the wrong ad if the data isn’t strong enough. This can create a strange, undesirable and most importantly an unhelpful experience that does more to turn the user off your website. After all, nobody wants to see personalisation that doesn’t actually feel particularly personal.

It’s also possible for a website to be too personalised. In our world of significant hacks, privacy is a bigger concern than ever, and if a user feels that a brand is learning too much about them or putting what they know to dubious use, it can feel intrusive and put the user off. This happened recently to Admiral car insurance, who considered using an algorithm to scan data on Facebook to learn more about a person and judge their premium on that knowledge. There was a swift public reaction and Facebook was quick to state that it would not allow its data to be used like that.

Usefulness should always be the guiding principle for any marketing that aims to understand the customer, whether that’s Mood Marketing or Moment Marketing. If consumers feel that the use of their private data is genuinely beneficial, they are much more likely to feel comfortable with it, and with its latest innovation, eBay feels like it’s moving in that direction. Should it prove successful, we’re likely to see many more brands following suit.

What do you think of eBay’s Mood Marketing? Tweet @FastWebMedia and let us know your thoughts on ad personalisation.

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