Dr. Peter Cochrane, independent analyst and futurologist with Cochrane Associates, OBE, PhD, Dsc, CGIA, FREng, FRSA, FIEE, FIEEE
Marketers aren’t taking advantage of big data, meta-data, and artificial intelligence. In the health industry, this has resulted in consumers turning to their own medical-diagnosing devices. This article examines what’s going on right now in marketing in terms of big data, and what needs to happen in the future.
Digital Marketing: The strange attractors take over .. A Big Problem with a Big Solution
Smart mobiles and smart marketing have sparked a transition – one where marketers can gather a wealth of information that can be used to proactively predict a customer’s needs. Marketers can provide what people need before they go searching for it. But marketers aren’t taking advantage of big data, meta-data, and artificial intelligence.
The Networked World
Digital markets are now vast with ever expanding channels and routes to customers that are dynamic and near instantaneous. And with only a few hardware manufacturing plants concentrated in a small number of regions, a global market is supplied with a far superior range of products. At the same time, we have never seen so many productive individuals and small companies supplying so many ‘soft products’ on a global scale with such slim profit margins.
Raw network connectivity has seen the rise of the social networking and social selling. Facebook and YouTube et al enjoy millions of hits an hour. The commercial reflection of this is the many companies and service providers seeing the similar effects for the same reasons.
A fuller understanding of the market implications has only recently begun to emerge, and it is clear that the power of networks, mobile devices, sensors and big data, combined with an innovative audience will ensure that there is more to come.
Online marketing and sales are still in their infancy. Even so, they generate responses that are surprisingly effective. Music sales, for example, have led to the destruction of a very old industry and the creation of a new dynamic one. Here, peer-to-peer and social networking are dominant and can be manipulated by skilful marketers to drive sales.
The sales cycle is rapid because of the network effect. Someone hears, likes, tweets and so on friend-by-friend – exponentially and near instantaneous . Hence, sales accelerate and focus as never experienced before.
So what actually triggered this ‘avalanche’ of interest? Strange attractors.
In the world of physics, mathematics and modelling, the key players bring together the attention buying power of the crowd is termed ‘strange attractor’ behaviour. In marketing this ‘strange attractor’ effect can be anything from a remarkable individual (Steve Jobs at Apple), to a new idea, to fashionable branding. Past examples include online movies, tablet computing, muesli, jeans, miniskirts and The Beatles. Each has a high level of novelty and fashion.
It is possible to identify ‘strange attractors’ before they happen. Only it will take new methods and techniques of observation and analysis, new marketing mind sets, and new technologies – some which are still in their infancy.
Data and Meta-Data
One of these new techniques involves capturing data and meta-data. This means tapping into the list of what our devices and networks know about us. For instance, our phones already know where we are, where we’ve been, who we’ve met, what music we listen to, what we buy, our URLs, and so forth. In the future, this will include things like health monitoring, product purchase, artificial intelligence support systems, and more.
For marketers, knowing what we do and when we do it opens a lot of new doors. Being able to gage when we are likely to be thirsty, hungry, or in need of goods and services presents a new level of opportunity.
As consumers, we can be influenced greatly by pertinent and timely advertising and marketing, but the influence of our friends and peer group is even greater. Thus, marketers who know whom we’re communicating with have a valuable tool at their side.
Likewise, marketers can use big and meta data to understand how rapidly messages originate, propagate and change behaviours; the power of given groups in terms of generating sales per message; the leaders, followers, influencers, big spenders and champions; why we buy what we buy; and more.
This powerful data is mostly held on mobile devices and within the disparate databases of banks, network operations, retailers and social network providers. So the big challenge is accessing, using and protecting this data in a legal, ethical and customer pleasing way. But it is clear that access will see greater opportunities for higher sales and far more effective integration, along with a big opportunity for great customer benefits.
Please Take My Problems Away
Despite our technological advances, digital selling, buying and marketing remain relatively blunt instruments that demand pro-active customers. The ability to predict customer requirements in advance of need is what will be demanded in the near future.
Today, many companies are falling short. Consider some examples:
Banks: Could analyse the finances and lifestyle of individuals in order to pro-actively propose funding plans for children’s education, home extensions, new car purchases, vacations and more. They know how much we earn; what we spend where and when; details of our family and their education, clothing and vacation preferences, our insurance and pension needs etc. But we have to go to them. We have to be proactive. They are just spectators of personal and company activities. They could simplify things and ‘take the pain away’, but so far they have chosen not to.
Retail: Is likewise positioned to help us make cost-effective purchases that would clear their stock rooms of ‘end of line’ and ‘out of season’ goods to great mutual benefit. They could tempt us to ‘click’ in a way they fail today. Knowing that we have booked a vacation, are organising a party or reunion, need a new TV or washing machine, or have special dietary requirements should be obvious triggers for opportunistic selling. But we have to go to them.
Garages: Bombard us with electronic and paper spam but fail to refer to our data to see when an MOT and/or a service is due. They fail to judge when we are in the mood to look at vehicles and upgrade, change vehicle type for family reasons, or buy and sell. They do not see or consider our spouse, the arrival of children, or a job change as trigger points for new vehicle requirement and thus a targeted selling opportunity. We have to go to them.
Big Changes to Come
The list of industries that are about to be challenged and changed by technology is endless. There will be a radical restructuring across government, commerce, manufacturing, education, travel, entertainment and more. And the mechanism will be the same: big data, meta-data, and artificial intelligence, driven in part by our devices.
These will be the big drivers that will open the doors to dynamic, real time and focused marketing. And all designed to take the pain away from prospective customers in a way that will enhance their lives.
This is no longer a question of if, but a question of when. It is also a question of commercial survival and accepting change. Marketers need to start capturing meta-data and big data in a way that works. Those that do not will either perish or be relegated to a ‘limping’ second league.
Peter is an internationally sought after guru who invests his time and money as an agent of change. Renowned for his out of the box thinking, he is an advisor and consultant to companies and governments, the author of blogs, articles and books on technology, business and managing rapid change.
With over 40 years of technology and operational experience, Peter has been involved in the creation and transformation of corporations. His BT career saw him progress to CTO with teams engaged in optical fiber, fixed and mobile networks, artificial life and healthcare, through to war gaming, eCommerce, and business modeling.
Peter has also spent time as an educator and was appointed Professor for the Public Understanding of Science & Technology @ Bristol (1998). He received the Queen’s Award for Innovation & Export (1990), numerous Honorary Doctorates and was awarded an OBE (1999) for his contribution to international communications.
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