This is the third in Baynote’s ten-part series of cartoons by award-winning cartoonist Tom Fishburne, titled “Intent to Buy”. If you’re new to the series, be sure to check out our previous cartoons. We’re still giving away signed prints by Tom if you post a comment within one week (U.S. addresses only), so please continue to let us know what you think!

Check out the complete series.

The good news is you’d be hard-pressed to find a retailer that goes quite to the extent this cartoon suggests. The bad news? This is commonly how many retailers view their online shoppers – as personas that fall into specific profile types that can be marketed to.

The 20-something male from Jackson Hole, Wyoming: He must love to ski. The farmer from Iowa: He must be looking for Wranglers.

The all too common problem? What if that 20-something has never set foot on a mountain, and that farmer actually likes Gucci?

People – even those who appear similar on paper – come in all shapes and sizes, and their profile data alone isn’t a strong indicator of what they want and need at the moment they land on your site. For example, knowing a visitor is a single dad isn’t going to be nearly as useful as knowing he’s looking for a 12-inch laptop case.

To be clear, profile data is still incredibly useful when blended with information about a shopper’s intent. Once you have a good idea of a shopper’s intent, bringing his or her profile data into the mix can be extremely valuable because it can be used to better understand personal tastes and preferences. With no insight into that person’s intent however, his or her profile alone will have limited relevance.

If you want to take your personalization game to the next level, start by first figuring out why someone is visiting your site, and then look at other types of data to inform your product recommendations – golf handicap and blood type not included.