What is behavioral targeting?

In the context of digital marketing, behavioral targeting is the science of establishing the profile of a specific user or different segments of online users and using the data to create a more personalized experience from them. As a result, advertising campaigns tend to perform better and yield higher ROIs for publishers. 

Collecting consumer behavior data

The first step in the behavior targeting process is collecting consumer data. This helps marketers to understand the diversity of consumer personality, expectancies and consequently the products and the offers they prefer.

A very important condition for persuasive communication is to send tailored messages for each type of audience. Being an interactive medium, the internet has the advantage of enabling instant feedback, and then matching segments of users with messages, offers, and products specially designed for them, in real-time. 

To establish the online profile of a consumer several data points can be collected:

  • session behavior (page views, site search keywords, the content he reads by topic or theme )
  • browsing history (visited pages, searched information)
  • purchase history (has he bought before or is he a new visitor, how much has he spent the last time he visited the site and on what type of products)
  • data entries in forms
  • data from surveys
  • the device he is using (mobile, tablet, is he an Android or an iPhone user, a Mac or Window user)
  • location (based on IP): country, city
  • etc

The data is generally gathered with the help of tracking and analytics tools, eye-tracking software and website optimization solutions, such as in the example below:

behavioral targeting

Behavioral targeting and web personalization

Web personalization means treating each visitor differently and engaging them in a more complex interaction than the classic ‘same website for everyone’. So by interpreting visitors’ intentions in real-time, it’s possible to respond to these intentions in a personalized way. 

Here are some famous personalization techniques:

  • recommendation engines that display products based on the visitor’s navigation patterns
  • targeted e-mail campaigns, according to behavior
  • personalized onsite search
  • dynamic landing pages that show more relevant information to the user
  • personalized interactions with the visitors (banners, pop-ups), displayed on key moments: on the landing page, on exit

And a few reasons for using personalization:

  • it’s great for cross-sells and up-sales
  • it helps you re-engage customers that abandoned the cart
  • makes customers feel more familiar with the website
  • it helps you regain the users’ attention when they want to leave the site

Some practical uses for behavioral targeting

1.    Reduce cart abandonment
Behavioral targeting can be used to re-engage visitors that showed a clear buying intent, but, for different reasons, have abandoned the shopping cart. By putting together pieces of information about the user’s navigation on-site, the products he seems to prefer and the ones he has chosen, marketers can retarget users and serve them with messages that restart the buying process.​

​2.    Initiate a long-lasting communication with customers
Behavioral targeting is great for creating communication opportunities. Based on known information about the visitor, marketers can create and serve messages about newsletter subscription. Do you want to hook visitors from London? Create a special newsletter, London themed, and then invite visitors from London, to subscribe to the newsletter. It can be done easily through a pop-up, a website overlay, etc.

3.    Hook indecisive potential customers
While on a website, some visitors might display behaviors that suggest they are interested in the offers or certain pieces of content, but at the same time, they have some doubts or take too much time to decide. If it’s a good potential customer, a marketer can push a little the sale by promoting special offers or products better adapted to the visitor’s needs. How can you spot the potential customers among the usual traffic? An “indecisive behavior” can be defined by a big number of viewed pages, by an increased time spent on-site or by a certain pattern of search. It’s up to every marketer to settle metrics according to each web site’s profile and target.

4.    Increase average order value
Through behavioral targeting, marketers can construct better-targeted offers. Every time a user explores a website, a pattern of navigation emerges. These patterns can be used to recommend products that correspond to the user’s preferences. By helping the visitor discover more interesting products and better associations of products, the orders can be encouraged to grow in numbers as well as in value.
Behavioral targeting is a powerful tool when used in accordance with a website’s objectives. It’s also a very versatile tactic that enables marketers to create personalized campaigns for different segments of visitors.