Commentary

An Emerging Digital Reality

In today’s wired world, just about every behavior or action we take – clicks, views, purchases, shares, emails, even phone calls – creates a powerful digital roadmap for marketers to target customers with even more refined messages to help drive purchases and build loyalty. Yet while this burgeoning data network holds tremendous promise, it is fragmented and one-dimensional.

For instance, Stop & Shop has no inkling of what I buy during my regular fill-in trips to Trader Joe’s. Walgreens is oblivious to my online shaving product purchases. What I “like” on Facebook is a total mystery to Google. Just think how far marketers could go with sentient computing where digital devices “speak” to each other and our brand interactions are shaped less by our digital footprints as by what we do. 

As a possible sign of things to come, Amazon Dash is inching us towards a more interconnected digital reality. With Dash, consumers use a sleek “wand” to scan barcodes on kitchen items they need to replenish, creating a pattern of shopping behaviors against which Amazon could then market to customers with automated product suggestions to help re-stock the pantry. It’s not much of a leap to envision Dash operating at the center of interconnected homes – the refrigerator that informs Dash of the need to refill kitchen staples or the washing machine that triggers a greater supply of Tide when the kids return from college. Not to mention what is to come with Amazon’s new Fire Phone. 

Still, there are a number of operational challenges that marketers need to address to truly bring the Internet of Things to fruition. On a macro level, many marketers reside in a digital world built on legacy marketing approaches, structures and behaviors, a challenge that demands its own solutions. But some early navigation to a more interconnected consumer experience might include the following steps to aggregate consumer and shopper data and ultimately create more personalized experiences.

  • Pinpoint the business objective – You need to outline your business objective and understand what success looks like. The goal is to create a clear vision for the digital brand ecosystem you seek to create.
  • Assess the technology and data infrastructure – In most instances today, technology and the brand experience are inextricably linked. You’ll need to understand what data is available and how it’s being used, looking at data infrastructure, site infrastructure, applications and campaign measurement.
  • Build the idea – Use the findings from this assessment to build the idea that can inspire your customers and the platform to engage them. The idea should encompass a connected world that embraces your consumer, spanning the physical and digital realms, telling customers “why” they’re experiencing this and “what” the brand will do for them.
  • Create customer journeyMarketers need to use consumer data to build experience maps to define how consumers will interact at each stage of their journey. The maps will reveal how to collect data and provide relevant experiences, pegged to target audiences. 
  • Test and re-test Consumers can’t always articulate their needs with respect to technology. When feasible, ideas should be deployed in small-scale test projects, advancing those that show promise while aborting those that fall short.

Despite some early headway, marketers are still in the early stages of understanding the Internet of Things concept and all that it portends. As this emerging digital reality accelerates, they need to be well positioned to capitalize on its potential to take their marketing efforts and business results to the next level. As the experience genius Walt Disney once wrote about his own company, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

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