How data will underpin 'next gen marketing'
Today's high-tech world has put consumers on the leading edge of technology - whether by means of smartphones, Web 2.0, or 'augmented reality' (AR) - and the opportunities for brands to connect with potential and existing users are numerous.
According to Christian Howes, head of solution engineering (EMEA) for Webtrends, this next generation of marketing science has to be underpinned by accurate and timely data.
Many consumers now have access to not just one but two, three or even four communication devices, and marketers can expect that the amount of data in existence to continue to rise dramatically. The big question, then, is how marketers can harness that data to more precisely and intelligently engage consumers as they go about their day-to-day lives.
Thinking for a moment about the possible future of so-called 'connected technologies', while the 1984 movie Terminator portrayed a rather unrealistic and relentless cyborg, the reality of technology being intrinsically connected to our person is perhaps not so far removed.
"Take for example the Oyster Card, which Londoners use to travel on the Underground railway system," said Howes. "Rather than fumble around for his Oyster card in a wallet or pocket, an ingenious friend of mine removed the chip from the card and attached it to one of his gloves, allowing him to slide his hand over the reader and enter with ease."
Another such futuristic movie to offer us ideas that could eventually become consumer-friendly was Minority Report, in which Tom Cruise interacted with holographic images and 'swiped' video clips around with his hands. This kind of idea is arguably getting closer to reality thanks to the latest generations of virtual reality - namely 'augmented reality' (AR).
AR is a term for a view of a real-world environment where elements are augmented by computer generated imagery. The ability to access data via hands-free devices, enabling workers to carry out tasks without impediment, is increasingly vital in many different sectors. For example, the automotive industry is an obvious place for this kind of technology. BMW has been conducting research in this field, paving the way for a number of new applications for its service teams. AR techniques implemented by the brand provide support while maintenance work is carried out on the complex technical systems used in vehicles. Using special data goggles and wireless access to a computer, BMW mechanics have all the information they need at their disposal, precisely where they need it: in the workshop, and while looking at the vehicle.
So, as technology becomes part of our everyday lives, repetitive behaviour such as checking your email or updating your status on social media channels like Facebook or Twitter have already become an integral part of our society. And, as people develop a collection of profiles or friendships online, we are reaching a point where we need to bring the virtual world and the real word to overlap more and more.
Marketers are already applying AR to showcase new products. Again, the automotive sector provides a great example of a fun and simple way to use this technology. Nissan recently showcased the Qashquai in France and the 370Z in Australia using AR. For this to work, consumers required only a webcam and a print-out of a template which is provided on the car maker's web site. As they move the template around, looking at the screen, they can get a 360 degree view of the cars, change its colour and even take part in a driving game using the cars.
But what does all this mean for brands and organisations struggling to cope with the data they already collect? Well, marketers simply need to know how best to serve their customers based on how they interact with the brand.
As the proliferation of devices that are being used to connect, interact and communicate with it continues, if your business or organisation doesn't keep up then one of your competitors surely will. This growing 'splinternet' (the amalgamation of many digital channels) is the new brand battlefield, and customer loyalty has now much become more than simple perception.
Without continued innovation in the parallel world of data collection and aggregation, marketers won't be able to harness the full potential of new technologies that consumers are eager to adopt.
Just as importantly, although perhaps less glamorous, web analytics will allow relevant and specific data to be gathered in real time from social media, blogs and web sites. Consumers spend a lot of their personal time pumping information - whether it's their experiences, desires, needs or suggestions - into all of these channels, and devices supporting AR could make use of this data to feed relevant information back to people instantaneously. For example, in the case of satellite navigation systems that stream information directly to car windscreens, marketers could have the opportunity to provide motorists with reviews and recommendations relating to service stations as they drive up, allowing them to make an informed choice before deciding where and when to stop for a break.
The more marketers can implement and harness the power of aggregated data, the more relevant the information will be that can be streamed directly back to consumers, without barriers, and in increasingly imaginative ways. A vision of a cyborg future may be 'over the top' from a marketer's standpoint, but some of the concepts involved are perhaps not so alien after all.