But does it really work? Does your history predict what you will buy in the future? Maybe, maybe not. In some cases it has no bearing on what you want to see or are looking for the next time you are shopping online.
Amazon.com is probably the biggest online retailer. You can buy almost anything from their site or one run by them. They run stores for many other companies that you might not realize at first visit to their web page.
So what’s my beef? Why am I annoyed? I once needed a replacement piece for my camera, an eyepiece for the viewfinder. I had a hard time finding it because it isn’t a big-ticket item and it’s not something that pops up to the top in a Google search. But Amazon found it among several of the camera shops they run sites for. I ordered it and some other photographic items, including a backpack-style camera bag. All arrived and life was good.
But, now whenever I visit Amazon’s site, I’m greeted with suggestions of things they think I might want to buy: camera eyepieces and bags. They must think I have a dozen cameras. I’ll never need another eyepiece. The first one breaking was sort of a freak thing. By the time the new one ever wears out, it will be time for a new camera. And the camera bag ought to last forever, it’s a LowePro and one of the best made. I shouldn’t ever need another.
I used to get Suzanne Vega CDs as suggestions. I must have ordered, or at least looked at, a Suzanne Vega CD once long ago. I don’t even remember it. So they kept showing me more CD’s by Suzanne Vega. I don’t dislike Suzanne Vega, but my taste in music is considerably more varied than a steady diet of Suzanne Vega. Couldn’t they show me another CD by an artist I might like? Maybe one I hadn’t heard of, but might be similar to SV? No, they just think that because I bought on once, I might keep on buying more. How many copies of her CDs do they think I want? They only had about 3 by her. She’s made more than that. They can’t even show me one I don’t have. If I type Suzanne Vega one more time, this post is going to pop up in Google when someone searches for her!
So, I looked into it. I went into their website and clicked the link that says “Why is this reccomended for you?” I was able to tell them to stop showing me particular items, but not turn it off altogether. So every item I turn off goes away, only to be replaced by some other item I might have viewed once before. Never anything new. If I already bought it, or even worse, decided against buying it, why do they think I will buy it now?
Not all web marketers get this wrong. I buy a good deal of computer parts and equipment online. I use two places over and over: TigerDirect.com and NewEgg.com. Neither of them pretend to know what I want when I visit their site. They do send me catalogs and/or email ads, but those show me a wide variety of items, not just what I’ve already bought. I’ve even bought things that I never knew existed until I saw them in their ads.
So, Amazon, you’ve proved you can track every little thing I’ve ever bought or looked at on your network of sites. Stop trying to tell me what I used to want. You’re not doing a very good job of predicting what I do want, which just goes to prove you can’t predict people with computers…