[Updated] Office Max Tests Web Program That Offers Political Targeting

LivePredict can pinpoint blue and red voter groups

Office Max, which goes against back-to-school competitors such as Staples, Office Depot, Walmart and Target, thinks it has a secret weapon as the annual shopping season hits the mid-way point.

(UPDATED: After this story published, Office Max's e-commerce execs denied using the Census-based political data in Monetate's LivePredict system.)

To convert paid search and display ad placements into sales, the Naperville, Ill.-based chain is doing the usual: optimizing its landing pages and overall website so it provides everything from relevant products to a specific design layout. But what's more, as a beta tester for Monetate's LivePredict system, which is being announced today, Office Max has been geographically targeting consumers' political leanings—based on U.S. Census data—as well as location and other meaningful data.

"Typically, you look at email versus search customers, or new customers versus repeat customers," explained Gregory Phillips, the retailer's senior web analyst for testing and optimization. "You normally cannot go as granular as left-leaning cities in Iowa. But LivePredict brings that out.

"It lets you connect the dots where you see things like that and whether the audience segments are high performers or low performers—and then it all starts to make sense. The tests translate beyond what we normally learn, giving us insights to things we'd otherwise overlook."

Phillips wouldn't disclose particulars in terms of what the custom Web experiences look like for consumers according to their politics or other behaviors. And to be clear, his brand doesn't care at all about whether consumers' politics skew left or right—it simply aims to mix and match data to create OfficeMax.com customers. But he did suggest he was happy with sales conversions so far.

"Back-to-school is almost like our holidays season," he said. "And there's not just one kind of back-to-school shopper. You could be a parent getting school items for your children. Or you could be a college kid looking for dorm essentials. LivePredict pinpoints those demographics and messages towards them. It's not just a back-to-school-shopper-as-a-whole presentation."

If you're in e-commerce, that just might something you could vote for.

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