Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Priceline is Following Me...Literally!

Several months ago I needed to book a hotel in Hollywood, CA near a client. I had never used Priceline before so I’d thought I’d give it a try. They found me a good deal at a hotel “nearby”. Long story short they ended up booking me into a hotel in Century City, which is nowhere near Hollywood.

As soon as I got the confirmation I called them and requested a refund, but despite 30 minutes of wrangling with the “manager” they refused to budge. I ended up paying for 2 hotel rooms that night. The hotel in Century City from Priceline and the hotel in Hollywood that I ended up booking on my own. Lesson learned – I will never use Priceline again. Ever.

Yesterday I needed to book a hotel in Palm Springs, near another client. I went online and did the usual searching, using Kayak, Travelocity, Expedia, etc.

Within 20 minutes I was shocked to receive an email from Priceline.com offering discounts on hotels in Palm Springs on the same days I was planning on being there. How did they know I was looking for a hotel in Palm Springs? How did they know which days I was going to be there?

As a marketing automation and Best Practices consultant I would be the last person to toss up the Big Brother argument for cookie tracking, but wow, this is the first time I’ve ever felt like Big Brother was actually watching me – stalking me almost.

If the email was from a company I would actually consider doing business with I wouldn’t mind, in fact I’d probably appreciate it, but what made this so unsettling is every time I even hear about Priceline it always reminds me of the money I lost.

Cookie Tracking
There has been a lot of discussion lately about cookie tracking as it relates to privacy issues vs. relevance.

In fact, in the EU, there is a new law which goes into effect in May that now requires websites to obtain a user's consent before even being allowed to install a tracking cookie. Yikes.



Summary

Marketing Automation and cookie tracking in particular make it easier to send “hey we just watched you online and boy do we have a deal for you” emails.

As more and more companies test these waters, it will be critical to everyone's success to make sure to also include as part of the process,  confirmation of a good relationship with the target just prior to sending the email. Otherwise we all run the risk of facing the same restrictive legislation the EU is about to face.


Key Takeaway
If the current state of the relationship is monitored, sending the right person the right message at the right time can be extremely effective in fostering a deeper, more personal relationship.

If the relationship is not considered, then it's like the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend who won't stop following you. They’re stalking.

Visit my brand new website and learn more about data management.

Steve Kellogg
-Demand Generation/Marketing Automation Consultant, Astadia
-Eloqua Certified Marketing Best Practices Consultant

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2 comments:

  1. Great point Steve, it looks like Priceline is using Tacoda for targeting. In the race to have the most advanced technology, many companies are forgetting about the impression these tools can make on the vocal minorities who have exceptionally bad experiences.

    Then again, most current technology like this seem to track users by cookies, not identities. So the Priceline example is a bit comforting, isn't it?

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