Marketing in the age of disruptive personalisation

Mark Cameron

Mark is a world renowned thought leader in digital innovation, customer experience, social media strategy and service design. He is the digital strategy and customer experience columnist for BRW and has had well over 400 articles published in industry publications. Mark is also a regular speaker on customer experience, social media and digital strategy. Currently he is CEO of Melbourne-based customer experience innovation consultancy, Working Three.

Today’s marketers are under enormous pressure. Beyond dealing with the day-to-day challenges that managing a brand in a complex ‘always on’ world can bring, marketers are also under significant pressure to be preparing their business for tomorrow.

But what does that actually mean? What will ‘tomorrow’ look like and how fast is change going to be taking place? Ignoring business catch phrases like ‘digital disruption’ and taking a big-picture view of what is happening, there are a few trends beginning to take shape that will have a major impact on the business landscape.

In a series of articles on CMO, I and my colleague, Claudia Batten, will explore these trends and see how, collectively, they will create whole new industries. Before we jump into that, a quick word of warning about this piece: If you think that acceleration in automated process and digital communications seen over the last decade has brought with a huge amount of change, well, in the immortal words of the band Bachman Turner Overdrive, “You ain’t seen nothing yet”.

The next 10 to 20 years are going to see the world of business completely transformed. The speed of change is only going to continue to speed up. The reason for this is rapid digitisation and commoditisation of the world around us.

But developing a long-term digital strategy needs to go much further than just looking at the area most highly impacted right now, the customer-facing communications channels. It is important to get these right, but we are rapidly entering a time where everything that can be digitised, will be. What this will mean for businesses, and consumers, is profound.

We are entering a world that will be dominated by the demands of the individual, and a world where on-demand will move away from purely digital media purchases and start to apply to everything. Let’s look at one trend that will be shaping the future:

Personal data and convergence

We will start our journey by looking at the recent product updates from Apple. Why here? Because this release was a little bit different from the famously secretive company. It was the first release that hinted at what Apple’s longer-term strategy was. Of course the company didn’t tell us directly, but if you have a look at where it is investing effort a couple of things start to become clear.

Only a few years after Apple ushered in the world of apps, each one creating its own pocket of user data, the company is now starting to change the rules to focus on data convergence.

While there are many sophisticated mobile apps that can turn your iPhone or iPad into a substitute computer if need be, most of the millions and millions of apps you can purchase do just one thing. Many of those do that one thing very well. The truth is that most people don’t want to use their mobile devices like a computer. They are far more personal. And, in some ways, more powerful.

We are not talking about raw computing power, of course. But mobile devices have context. They are with most people 24/7. They know where we are. They know what we are doing. And they are generating trails of data that can pull meaning from our activity as we go about our daily lives.

Most of us are aware of this, or at the very least have heard about the rapid rise of data that we are all creating. What Apple is now trying to do is help standardise much of this data so it can become far more useful.

The relationship we have with our phones is at odds with the current app model in some ways. Opening up lots of different apps, one at a time, to interact with different aspects of our lives is not a seamless experience. In actual fact, it seems to be more focused on the features of the app than the needs of person. The developer features of the next version of iOS signal a change in direction for Apple.

Although it’s still early days, the two areas that have exploded in recent years are health and home automation. There is a bewildering array of health apps and wearable devices, like Fitbit and Jawbone, available currently. Likewise, the home automation space, an industry expected to be worth $48 billion by 2018, is becoming very quickly saturated with everything from lightbulbs to individual power switches you can control from an app on your phone.

What Apple has done is start to standardise and simplify the way these applications work together. This is all about the overall user experience. You may have 25 different health apps on your phone, but very soon you will be able to see all of the data they are creating in one place. It will be the same for the apps that can control the lighting, heating and mood of your home.

Add to this Apple’s artificial intelligence personal assistant, Siri, and we will be starting to interact with our computers in a way that starts to look a lot like the omnipresent operating systems in the movie, Her. Soon you’ll be coming home and saying to your phone “I’m ready for bed” and your lights will dim, your TV will turn off, your bedside lamp will turn on and your heating will drop back for the night. Or your phone will start to tell you when you have eaten too much sugar, need to do exercise or not drunk enough water.

Of course, Google is trying to do something similar. The search giant has a huge amount of data about every one of us, after all. But there is an important difference.

Apple doesn’t see you as the product. Well, not in the same way Google does. For Google (and Facebook for that matter) adverting is the name of the game. Both want you to use the Internet to present ads to you. For Apple, it is much more about the purity of the user experience so they are looking to help developers and data sources work together within their ecosystem.

It is likely companies like Apple, Google and Facebook will step up the focus of this personal data usage. They are all looking to grab more of your personal data and serve it back to you in amazing and useful ways. But while much of this data will be interesting at first, most people don’t really want to see an analytics dashboard of their lives. What they really want is the data to do something useful. They want it to help them make better decisions.

Whether they know it or not, people want their data to stop being just numbers and start to become ‘meaning’.

What does this mean for marketing?

All of this user data, and the ways it is starting to be used, will have a massive impact on marketing as we know it. As the traditional media channels struggle for relevance, finding new ways of engaging with customers is critically important.

Marketers are now required to know their customers in great detail, and this means that they are able to drive innovation and service design projects. In short, marketing is moving away from being a 30-second clip to becoming a source of innovation.

There is a very good reason CRM giant, Salesforce, went after the office of the CMO while all of the vendor’s competition was still engaging with the IT department. The marketers of today will be driving product development, customer experience, innovation and the way data is used.

The great management consultant, Peter Drucker, said: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” He also said: “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.”

To contextualise for today’s data-driven environment, the successful marketers of today are the business leaders of tomorrow.

Tags: digital strategy, marketing strategy

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