Big data and the rise of new ways to connect.

I was recently asked by a journalist about the nature of technological advances in marketing and why many NZ companies, particularly in retail, were slow to adopt. I thought this was a bit unfair, but it is easy to understand the basis of such a question – if the technology exists, why don’t people use it?

What sort of technological advances am I referring to? Near field recognition, RFID, smartphone barcode scanning…

But this is just what’s available now around the world.  We are on the cusp of a fantastic smorgasboard of new technologies that are going to make marketing an even more fascinating space to be in as we open up new channels to communicate with customers through. Some of these will leverage the ubiquitous ‘big data’ to do this, and others  will create new opportunities simply through the juxtaposition of consumers, their technological devices, and savvy marketers.

Technology has recently been leveraged by marketers in high profile ways, but the key thing is the commercialisation of this – experiments with augmented reality are interesting and leverage the rise of the smartphone, but they haven’t been proven to sell much yet. Similarly, the award winning Tesco QR code smartphone ordering in the Seoul subway is a great idea, but the fact that it hasn’t actually been picked up and run out in a commercial way is evidence that it was a good gimmick but maybe not commercially sustainable. Although Tesco have recently played with the same gimmick at Gatwick to serve returning holidaymakers.

So lets face it, a key factor around the early adoption of new technologies lies in the sheer cost of it.  It’s not just a matter of implementing the actual technology (eg barcode scanners that can read a barcode on a smartphone) but it’s also all the backend technology to stream relevant data up and down the pipe, ideally in real time. Real time makes an enormous difference to the user experience and to how marketers can behave, but the IT platforms needed to run this robustly are not without significant investment.

In the UK retailers like Sainsbury’s are installing instore free wi-fi and it won’t be long before many retailers will be doing that here too. Soon, when shopping, your wi fi enabled smartphone will be able to do an awful lot for you.  Obviously there’s looking up products and reviews on the internet, which reception-permitting you can do now  – but it will be faster and easier and ticketed QR codes will be able to accelerate your assessment of products. But this of course needs real time data to enable it to all happen within an instant and mean something.

Simply walking into stores that you are ‘connected’ with – whether through a loyalty programme, a simple contact programme or membership club, could trigger a massive chain reaction. A push notification thanking you for being instore, maybe an offer to encourage you to buy something you wouldn’t normally, a reminder of your current rewards balance or that you have a reward waiting for you at the till. The connection here with big data is really interesting. You might also be encouraged to share your shopping expedition while you are doing it on social media “I am in the shop!” through to then sharing what you bought “Look at this great top!” just after paying through to reviewing what you thought of the experience or the product “It was SO what I needed”.

Our big data will know you’ve done all those things. We will even know if you have come in store and NOT bought anything! Which is excellent data to understand the age old challenge of it often being the marketing departments’ job to get customers to the door but then the sales team take over (a bit oversimplified in this day and age of creative POP materials all designed to create a stronger buy-now impact instore).

As a big science fiction fan, a near future in which we will all be running around with a form of ‘Google glasses’ that will make smartphones as we know them largely redundant provides exciting scope for marketers. It will change the game again. I can’t wait.

Author: Ben Goodale