When I worked for Sephora.com, one of the bigger and more impactful projects I worked on was integrating the email systems with digital analytics. This integration is becoming more common for advanced analytics practitioners. The setup involves setting a custom analytics variable to a unique user id or hashed email address when a visitor signs into a website, or when a user enters the website from an email click. From that point forward, all the web activity can be associated with the individual.
Once this is setup, marketers can then build segments and pull lists of users who visited a certain page or completed a certain action. This list is then joined to client data and targeted emails or direct mail can be sent to the users based on their previous web browsing. With some additional work, impressive automated marketing campaigns can be built and deployed.
Analytics provider Mixpanel recently launched a targeting system which tracks individual users. I believe their product goes a step beyond just capturing a unique id or an email hash and actually captures the email address itself.
Apart from email, Google Remarketing recently launched their big product integration with Google Analytics which allows you to build remarketing lists by using the advanced segmentation feature in GA.
The same skills and tools used to analyze web traffic are increasingly not just being used to measure and optimize sites and marketing, but are now being used to target audiences away from the sites they are visiting.
This is part of why the Do Not Track proposal feels so overreaching and ambiguous to me right now. Personally, I wish the proposal was named Do Not Target, and morphs into a proposal that would not ask for the prevention of measurement completely, just the prevention of the utilization of captured data for targeted ads. I’m interested to see what comes of the proposal and IE10′s decision to keep the setting on by default.
I think if you visit a website you are allowing yourself to be counted, the same way retail stores are allowed to video tape their own premises. But, if a retailer started using your photo and facial recognition software to display ads to you elsewhere… yeah people might find it creepy.