If you ever had this “oh-so-close to finding the purpose of my life, and phew, off she slips away” kinda feeling; chances are, you are either a poet (and/ or you’re in love), or, as in my case, trying to buy a highly coveted smartphone in a Flash-Sale online. So during one of those moments, I noticed something strange. And that’s where my little story starts:

While browsing through #FlipKart (think of it as an Indian cousin of Amazon?), the usual recommendation engine suggested that I check out the latest #Motorola phone that is hottest in the market. However, here’s the catch: You can only get one if you can be among the fastest fingers to click “buy” during the weekly flash sales that you need to subscribe to. Fair enough, I thought

Two days later, I got an email reminder in the wee hours of night alerting me that the product is back on stock. Elated, I logged into Flipkart (yeah yeah I am a night owl okay?), only to find that the product isn’t exactly available now, but the next flash sale for my product will be held 12 noon later that day.

Bummer, but whatever – I thought.

So later that day before noon, I got ready, logged in, high on caffeine and all, right before the sale. At the strike of noon I zoomed through adding the phone into my cart. Flipkart suggested that I also add a mobile case and a screen guard, which I did too, and submitted to reach the payment page. It all took a minute but turns out that there exist far more motivated shopping ninjas out there, and by the time I reached the payment page, the shopping cart showed that the phone is already “out of stock”. We’ll skip the expletives that came rushing to my mind, but still, no hard feelings.

Next morning however, I got a #retargeting/ #remarketing ad from Flipkart on #Facebook, that said something like “Hey! you added <XYZ> smartphone and two other things in your cart. Want to finish the purchase?” At this point, you’d be hard pressed to imagine any rationale behind you being targeted with an Ad for a product that is actually out of stock?

In all fairness, Flipkart isn’t the only one doing this wrong. I have had exactly similar experience with #Amazon too. So I tried to delve a bit deeper about it. and here’s what I think is wrong:

Let’s see how #retargeting/ remarketing actually works in Facebook:

So in order for Facebook re-targeting to work for your company, as a developer of the shopping portal you are expected to inset a code snippet provided by Facebook, also called “Pixel”, onto your website page <head> section. This will enable Facebook to track the following events/ actions taken by customer in your website and accordingly display re-targeting ads to the customer.

  • Add payment info
  • Add to basket
  • Add to wishlist
  • Complete registration
  • Contact
  • Customise product
  • Donate
  • Find location
  • Initiate checkout
  • Lead
  • Purchase
  • Schedule
  • Search
  • Start trial
  • Submit application
  • Subscribe
  • View content

Now here lies the problem:

#Facebook knows that a person had added something to the cart and also had initiated checkout but didn’t exactly buy it. Thus it re-targets the person with Ads of that product. Facebook algorithm however has no way of knowing that the purchase was not successful since the product went out of stock. As a result the re-targeting ad becomes futile. The ad, coming at a random time without any correlation with replenishment of stock in inventory of the company makes it even more awkward, even mildly irritating, if you may.

Is there a solution? May be. It’s not an instant solution, but more of an enterprise level technology/ data synergy planning.

Instead of broad based #re-targeting ad algorithms, it might be more prudent for companies to set up a mechanism to order targeted ads on demand, based on triggers derived from the inventory management system and dynamic #decisioning based on knowledge available about the customer. There can be a dynamic mapping made between customers and the desired product SKUs, such that the mapping is harvested and ads are triggered exactly when the condition fulfills i.e., the matching SKU is available in the company inventory. This entire process will need a business process orchestration layer to bring about synergy across multiple enterprise systems. That layer will have to intelligently trigger actions like logging into Facebook and creating ads every time a particular condition satisfies. to do all this seamlessly is a complex task.

There are several great frameworks available to cater to user cases like this. For example #Pega by #Pegasystems has a suite of features like business process management, campaign management, Next Best Action Marketing (NBAM), decision strategy management (DSM), Robotics Process Automation (RPA) and Robotics Desktop Automation (RDA) all rolled into one. There are others of course, including #Appian, #Salesforce etc.

No matter what tool you choose (of course that choice will be critical too) The most critical success factor of the entire exercise still remains the same. That is the ability to envision how the different parts of your customer’s journey fit snugly into each other – from just a curious blind search by a prospective buyer to the fulfillment of the desired product, resulting in a satisfied customer. And that, I believe, is the holy grail of marketing, isn’t it?

Do let me know what you think.

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