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Service monitors buying to customize online ads

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If you’ve recently bought a plane ticket or paint for a home-improvement project, chances are that your shopping patterns have not gone unnoticed.

Jeff Partl serves as president of Powerserve, a local company that provides big data marketing for a large online business. Marketers are now using a wealth of information from mobile devices, social media outlets and Web sites to create specific consumer profiles, which generates more personalized advertising for clients.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Jeff Partl serves as president of Powerserve, a local company that provides big data marketing for a large online business. Marketers are now using a wealth of information from mobile devices, social media outlets and Web sites to create specific consumer profiles, which generates more personalized advertising for clients.

Even just browsing for a pair of shoes on your smartphone or commenting on a friend’s Facebook picture is likely to draw attention from companies who see you as a potential customer.

That’s because a growing marketing phenomenon, labeled Big Data, is focused on securing an immense wealth of information generated from a multitude of sources such as mobile devices and social media sites.

Now, more than ever, companies are able to take advantage of advances in technology to glean information, tracking previous purchases and buying behaviors. Coupled with knowing a shopper’s demographics, a customer’s profile can be easily configured.

The large sets of data, once fully connected, provide companies with the “bigger picture,” said Radhika Subramanian, the CEO of Emcien, an Atlanta company that supplies pattern- detection solutions for big-data organizations in banking, health care, retail and other sectors.

“It should be able to tell you this is your group,” she said.

A traveler who has frequently flown with an airline could be targeted in this type of marketing, Subramanian said. If a search of that person’s social media habits reveals an interest in soccer, the airline might send out information about good deals on attending soccer matches in various locations, she said.

Consumers, too, benefit from receiving more relevant advertising that pinpoints their personal interests, Subramanian said.

“I’m very positive that this is going to be as big as the Internet bubble,” she said.

Though Big Data has advantages, it might seem intrusive when consumers start to see ads follow them or pop up on different platforms, like their work computer, smartphone or home laptop, Subramanian said.

How a company chooses to send its message, whether by text, e-mail or another avenue, also plays a role, she said.

“This is where you don’t want to get too intrusive,” she said.

Powerserve President Jeff Partl agreed that while the Big Data model can better serve the consumer, it can also create a creepy after-effect if used intrusively.

“I think you can over-communicate with your customers,” said Partl. “They can feel like they’re being followed or spied on.”

Powerserve works in client branding and Web site design, but it also offers Big Data marketing to an undisclosed online retailer that has about 1 million customers.

Of the information taken from customers on the company’s Web site and through social media outlets and e-mail, Partl said his team is able to form a consumer profile and create personalized messages for marketing purposes. The incoming data, stored in a secure off-site facility, is analyzed on a weekly or monthly basis, Partl said.

Information such as how long a user stayed on the site and what items were placed in the virtual shopping basket are easily accessible.

It’s imperative to show discretion, Partl said, so shoppers don’t become spooked.

“You have to show some good judgement,” he said.

North Augusta resident Rain Hadden is in the midst of planning her November wedding and does a lot of her shopping and idea gathering online, she said.

Having ads specifically tailored to her personal interests, Hadden said, would save her time “instead of having to filter through tons of things.”

Hadden also sees benefits in ads “following” her on various platforms, stating they could serve as a reminder if she had forgotten an earlier search.

“I think it would be awesome,” said Hadden, who hasn’t yet noticed any such advertising.

Technology Association of Georgia President Tino Mantella listed energy and health care as other industries that can benefit from Big Data. Medical responders, for instance, could instantly access a patient’s medical record in times of emergency, he said.

The Big Data industry has the potential to grow by 45 percent and reach $25 billion by 2015, Mantella said, citing Reuters. The state’s broadband infrastructure gives Georgia a prime spot in that market, he added.

As the Big Data industry continues to grow, so will the number of companies focused on protecting information, Mantella said.


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