The Future of Marketing from Where It Stands on Organisational Tracking
As it stands today and for the future ahead of us it comes as no shock that technology has taken over our daily lives. So it should also come as no shock that the role of marketers to consumers continues to develop, grow and transform from what it used to be. The role of marketers, compared to 10+ years ago, has become much more narrow thanks to the continued technological advancements. Marketers are able to gather a lot more information from their customers quicker and more efficiently and are able to segment everyone a lot more specifically based off the information they share. Kevin Kelly’s book, The Inevitable, identifies 12 factors that will fundamentally change and shape our future as marketers. I will continue to discuss 1 of these factors that I connected the most with.
Almost everything we do today can be traced and or tracked. If we want to go for a run we now have Fitbit’s at our dispense, if we want to keep a record of our diet for fitness purposes it is easily achievable, even something as simple as looking up a flight on Skyscanner in under 5 minutes. It is all easily traced back to us and inevitably shapes an online persona for us individually. Basically, someone somewhere is tracking anything that can be tracked.
For those unknown to this concept of tracking, in general application, it is regarding the total surveillance of data and or information for the benefit of citizens and consumers. Data about consumers is the new gold in business, so one thing is certain: Companies are going to and will collect more of it. From an organisation perspective, tracking is vital to have. It allows an organisation to connect with their customers on a personal and more specific basis because they are now aware of what their customers are interested in. Because of these tracking methods, organisations are able to supply their customers with what exactly they want and are able to beat their competitors by staying one step ahead of them, especially when thinking innovatively.
It can be frightening to think that whatever we do is keyed into a database that will inevitably perceive us. This is very much related to someone’s credit. For example, when paying bills if you pay the bill before or on the due date you will receive some good credit or even what’s better is no bad credit. For those who regularly turn payments in late it automates to give a bad credit score and inevitably that is how they will be perceived from a finance perspective. However, unknowingly, we share plenty of information daily with the world that we don’t take notice of. Even just updating your profiler picture on Facebook, posting a holiday picture on Instagram. All of these postings create what is known as an online life stream. Everyone plays a role in his or her own life stream essentially, and every time you post something it adds to your life stream. Today, people have become preoccupied and captivated by the number of likes they may get on a post. And every time they post they expect to achieve a total more than their previous posting, which ultimately may induce them to update much more frequently. And in the world of marketing, this is a thumb up because the more you post allows marketers to get a bigger perception of who you are as a customer. In previous years this may have seemed, and to this day may still seem, like crossing the line and overstepping their boundaries but not so much anymore since whatever you put up on the internet can never be erased entirely so this perception is some what conflicted.
In the past year there has been an explosion for participation across social media with regards to life logging. Life logging, which interconnects with one’s life stream, requires constant recordings and reporting of everything that someone does. Although not to this degree, people across social media (predominantly YouTube) have taken part in regular update vlogs. The 2 most popular forms that are transpiring are “Seize the Day” and “VED_”. This process of life logging provides a stronger basis for diagnostics in the marketing community. Elaborating on this, the more information that is shared and open to marketers allows them to understand their customers much more and therefore use a more specific approach when targeting these customers specifically. There is no predicting what may be the next life logging video diary process. There was no prediction in terms of “VEDA” (Video Everyday in August).
Not only does tracking allow organisations to learn more about their customers but also, now it allows organisations to learn more about their competitors. Since the rise of Internet shopping, online shoppers have been able to sign up for regular updates, notifications, Google alerts and promotional emails. Competitors can take advantage of this and sign up to receive these to keep track so if say a rival company lowered their prices for a sale they may move in the same direction if there is a clear shift in demand. By going down this route of signing up for their CRM (Customer Relationship Marketing) programs, you’ll begin to learn of the special offers and discounts that are rewarded to loyal customers and can use this in your own organisation’s competitive strategy.
It is key that a business/organisation is always bringing in new customers. One question you might ask yourself is how do you know who is a new customer and who is a returning customer. Apart from the obvious of having an account when participating in online shopping, recognizing each IP address that is stored on an organisations site allows them to identify new customers. The most important thing to keep in mind is where these customers are coming from? Are they logging on from a billboard they saw an advert for, are they bouncing from an ad on a social media platform, i.e. Facebook, Tumblr. At present, we have Google analytics at our disposal. We are able to keep track of (unique) page views, inbound links, viewing time and viewing by specific time period among other services. With the advancements occurring so quickly each day I feel as though in the not so distant future we will be able to use Google analytics to trace back from inbound links and IP address’ to find a name and full character profile on this random internet shopper. There are means of tracing these today, but with a change and constant upgrade in technology it will only become easier for anyone to conduct this process.
When tracking your customers it is important to watch out for regular occurrences. One way in which organisations do this is by recording data through cookies. Organisations in almost every sector use this: Shopping websites (Zara, Amazon), online streaming platforms (Netflix, Hulu) and newspaper articles (Most gossip columns). One segment of the market that has taken full advantage of using cookies is airline companies tracking through Skyscanner. Skyscanner, which has been in operations since 2001, provides a service to its customers in identifying the cheapest cost of transport between several different alternatives. The intuition of its customers is that they will keep a regular trace on these flights in the hopes that prices will shift downwards. While customers think they’re taking advantage of the service through their personal purchasing power the airlines are tracking your actions through cookies and then will raise the cost of the flight if they notice there has been an identical search, for example, 4 times in the one week. This also works especially well in terms of shopping websites like Amazon. If you’ve ever participated in online shopping with Amazon you may notice that they keep everything you are viewing through your account logged at the bottom of the page, exactly like how IMDb run their website too. And also, when you buy something recommendations are made on your home page from that point on and every time you purchase something there becomes an updated list of products that they perceive will take your interest. Theoretically the more you buy the more accurate they will be in predicting what you will presumably buy on their site in the future. What is it they are doing? Learning? Copying? Absorbing?
In the past marketing has predominately been focused towards advertising organisations towards customers in an approach to convince them to buy their product. With the fast rising competitors it certainly made it easier for customers to choose between their many different alternatives. This could have been a problem at the time because marketing would have been seen on the advertising/promotional scale and today we know it to be about the quality of a product in comparison to its alternatives. One way for an organisation to keep track of this is, again, through cookies. It is not uncommon for people to search stupid everyday questions on Google. Everyday it is said that the average person inputs 7 questions in the Google search box. Therefore by tracking the types of questions geared towards your product, your segment of the market or even questions about your competitors will allow marketers to come up with more unique ways for selling points towards consumers in the future. This again may seem like an ethical violation, as I’ve mentioned above, but everyone’s opinion on this matter is slightly different. However, by using this information it could be the corner stone for marketing evolving in the future, from an organisational standpoint anyway.
Being honest, when I first thought of tracking I would only think of tracking what your customers and potential customers were doing. But it goes on from so much more than this. Organisations need to be able to track themselves. Organisations need to be able to identify where they are most powerful and more importantly where they are most vulnerable at any given point in time. What makes an organisation grow? Communication. Communication channels are a must for organisations to be tracking. Effective communication is vital for a firm/organisation to continue to be a competitive player in the field. Tracking communication can be difficult because the results can be skewed. For example, when reviewing the intranet network and emails between colleagues the results may produce a report identifying strong communication but how much of this communication is relevant to the work being done. Today, there is a system by which a document or file is scanned to pick up information or data that is being searched for precisely. The more obvious example, in terms of students in college, is TurnItIn. TurnItIn is an online system for producing feedback on a file while also giving an originality report, designed to combat plagiarism. It is still possible to search for more specifics by logging certain words in a document. It is my personal opinion that in the years to come with technological advancements, a scanning system could and should be designed for monitoring the intranet system, for example, in an organisation to produce a high efficiency level within the workplace.
I previously mentioned that one of the things that people like to keep track of is their diet and fitness. Some organisations and companies have made a jump for this market and the main dominator, in my opinion, is Fitbit. Fitbit have had an exponential number of sales in the past number of years and are still performing well to this day. This process is otherwise known as self-tracking. Self-tracking today can be achieved just by downloading an app from the App/Play Store. One app proven to have taken the market on its innovative process is Strava. Strava is an athletic tracking platform that allows you to trace your walk/run/cycle etc. recording the length of the journey and then places you on a leaderboard within the community depending on the location of the track. The transition from self-tracking apps to Fitbit has been a phenomenal one which only makes the presumption that in the future self-tracking “devices” are only getting smaller. Referring back to the book about how Kevin mentioned his innovative idea of predicting microchips that can be attached to your shoe laces. This only broadens the possibilities that technology will have on self-tracking in the future. The difficulty in terms of marketing for this segment is trying to prove to athletic people why the latest advancements prove better for them if their current method works just as good for them and also that marketers need to be aware of why people are tracking themselves. For example, someone who uses a GoPro has an entirely different reason for self-tracking than that of someone who uses a Fitbit.
In conclusion, there is no way of predicting what changes may occur to the process of marketing in 15 years. Because of technological advancements, one can’t even predict where we may be at in 5 years time. One thing is certain however that tracking is key to success. It works for both marketers as they can see what consumers are searching for, what exactly they want. And also it works for organisations to see if consumers are going to competitors and why. Data tracking provides some reasoning behind why a consumer may do something unexpected although it doesn’t guarantee it. We’re only human. Sometimes you just want a change. New means of data sharing are always on the rise, e.g. Life logging, so it’ll be interesting to see the progression from “Videos Everyday in August” to what will come next and if they will cross with each other. Because of the changes to marketing, from promotion to quality, it is important for marketers to keep active with data surveillance and tracking because if need be they may track their customers and learn from what they are doing wrong and what they need to improve on that their competitors are doing.