It is an exciting time for marketers. The technology on the horizon is game-changing, not only for consumers, but also for the media, brands, and retailers trying to reach them. It's no surprise that much of this is driven by mobile and the soon to be realized Internet of Things. But what is only hype and what is real? What should you pay attention to in 2015?
The following are four technology trends that I believe every marketer must monitor closely this year. They will impact how you engage with your prospects and customers short term and potentially be quite disruptive (in a good way) in the long term.
Interactive push notifications
Most marketers understand the concept of a push notification -- a simple text message delivered to a mobile user in conjunction with any number of apps. The notification can be informational (e.g. the price has dropped on an item you are watching) or it can be offer driven (e.g. special discount if you visit a store).
(Image source: TechCrunch)
However, with iOS8 (and already in Android), there is now the potential to add developer-defined buttons to these notifications, turning a message into an interactive experience. Imagine sending a push notification to your user and they are able to take an action without being in the actual app. For example, push a message about a new product and provide a button the consumer can push to indicate they like that item or want special offers. This is the same type of evolution we saw in email, where the simple text of the '90s is now replaced today by fully embedded interactive experiences that no longer require visiting the sender's website to take action.
All signs point to 2015 as being the breakout year for proximity marketing -- the ability to turn a consumer's location into real-time targeting context. This can be accomplished using a number of technologies, from beacons to geo-fencing to IP lookup. Every modern marketer must understand the basics of how a beacon works (for more background, read "4 intuitive rules when applying beacon technology") and how this differs from geo-fencing and IP lookup ("A marketer's guide to location-based strategies").
More importantly, marketers must carefully watch consumer reaction and thresholds, as well as the developing policies surrounding privacy. For those marketers who approach this the right way --providing a real service with relevant information and full permission -- the consumer will accept and appreciate proximity marketing. For those who attempt to force fit this highly personal environment into old ad models (like cookies and retargeting), the results are likely to be poor and work against the industry at large.
First, I want to set the record straight. Some people use the terms The Internet of Things and wearables interchangeably. I beg to differ. The Internet of Things is just that -- it includes "things" like your refrigerator with potential applications where you are automatically alerted when it is time to buy more milk. Whereas the category of wearables is exactly as it sounds, consisting of an item that is physically connected to a body like clothing or accessories. But one thing is for sure: Wearables will become the most personal of all potential marketing vehicles. However, we're still very, very early. We're just starting to test out use cases and potential apps for each context.
It is also important to consider that we still have no idea what consumers will tolerate and appreciate -- and that's critical to crafting the right use case for marketers. My advice is to brush up on your social anthropology first before you dive into the details of the technology. Remember that technology doesn't change basic human behavior; it simply enhances it.
These are all terms for the trend to allow consumers to jump from platform to platform and device to device. While the idea of enabling consumers to seamlessly jump from web to mobile is great in principal -- and a marketer's dream -- the reality is that web and apps still have very different strengths and limitations.
Web continues to excel for casual searching and browsing behavior. There is a low commitment on the part of the consumer (just open the browser), they can easily bounce around by opening multiple tabs, and they will see the current version of your site. Apps, by contrast, require a commitment because you have to actually install them. Navigation is much more restricted, there is no guarantee that they will be using the latest version, and development is twice as hard since there are different platforms with different UIs to support. Marketers should look at platforms and devices as being connected through a user's path, but also separate based on which is used, for what purpose, and at what point in that path.
Karen Macumber is a consultant.
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