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Taking your Ideas Beyond

Social Media? Privacy? Embark on the next marketing wave

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Social medias have been making the headlines with data leaks, privacy compliance corruption and other unethical practices yet, they continue to drive forward their push to get more data from each of us and mine it for money. What started as a “connect” with friends approach has quickly become a real influencer and not always for the good.

From a marketing stand point, data gathering to create pointed campaigns, managing the analytics and impact of each program launched over the social media groups has become an key segment of the economy. This massive machine is now turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI) to “automatically” forecast one’s next need or wish and cope with the vast amount of data to be processed.

Many of the humble residents of this planet don’t seem to concerned about Facebook, Instagram or Twitter eavesdropping into conversations or “monitoring” our movements but situations like the manipulation of the 2016 US Elections or of UK’s Brexit campaigns by influencers that are interested in change the power balance of the world might put everyone in a difficult position. As Twitter seemed to become the next news channel of the world, politicians and the citizen of the world have access to the same “democratic” platform and the same count of characters to praise or trash anyone, at they might like.

The Social Media bombardment

As someone that has seen the rise of the internet, social media and now the consequences of its abuse, I wonder if the marketing organisations can continue to use those channels as the way to attract new customers.
According to statistics published by HootSuite earlier this year,
Twitter now reaches 500 million tweets per day. This number is dwarfed by Facebook with 510,000 comments posted every minute (do the multiplication and you get 734 million comments per day) which is still under Instagram’s 95 million posts per day.

Users and consumers are bombarded with so many signals that it becomes ultra-difficult to make a difference and keep the customers’ attention for more than a fraction of a second. In addition, there are the posts from friends, businesses, politicians and news channels… how can you make your name come to the surface? To support this,
Forbes article in April this year highlights that only 25% of companies can clearly state that social media brings a quantitive business impact whereas almost 40% cannot tell and 36% say that there is a benefit but not quantitive business impact.

How about Google and Amazon? They are not a social media!
Google just turned off their Google+ social media platform and continues to focus on gathering data on each user (location, recurrence, interests, associative relationships…). Amazon runs in the same direction with constant “over the shoulder” looking at what consumers might need to try to entice then to rent or buy it.
The difference here is that those two behemoths are as nosy as the social media ones except that they are using more subtle information points, invisible to many of us. They have less issues with passwords and data leaks but they host everybody else’s data with a possible eavesdropping capability that is not to be neglected (in fact, I have just closed my Amazon account, fed up with the constant push for consumption and lack of good service…. That’s for another article).

Is AI the solution?
If you consider AI as the computer that is able to distinguish your next needs and able to anticipate your request for a service or product, then yes, AI is the next level in marketing intelligence that will create a revolution about how companies can position their products.

The way I see it is that my smartphone (smart watch, smart earphones, smart glasses) could
  • become the filter to pick what is available in the area I am in (GPS echolocation, geofencing and beaconing)
  • understand the conditions of my environment (weather, temperature, movement, health condition)
  • should be able to tap into the jungle of data to provide me with recommendations about what it is I could be interested, at this exact moment in time and at this exact location.

As long as the AI engine making the filtering is on my device and not in a Cloud, my personal location and condition should remain private, thus providing only the result of query if I elect to take advantage of a recommendation.
Furthermore, with the user of digital assistants like Google, Siri or Alexa, I can make additional requests for services or products independently from the proposals already made to me by my portable AI engine. Of course, each company has its way to handle digital assistant’s requests and privacy rules here are also to be observed (
read Blomberg’s report about Amazon’s employees listening to conversations to try to hear if you said “Alexa”).

As demonstrated by Apple’s introduction of the Bionic Chip in 2017 and
the recent hiring of Alphabet’s John Giannandrea, a top AI expert, artificial intelligence on the end device will have to rely on signals from an array of sensors on the device and in the environment (GPS, beacons…) to activate Apps that, in turn will trigger notifications for the user to take notice of an opportunity.

Are you ready for the future?
Have you watched lately any futuristic movies like “The Island” or better yet “Blade Runner”? You will see advertising bill boards that are animated in ways that they seem to be talking to each pedestrian. This could be a way to look at it, yet, I think the amount of general information still does not identify a 5 year old to a 25 year old consumer.

Instead, I anticipate a change in the way the consumer will receive information about your product or services:
  1. A “user-prompted” request via a digital assistant like, for example, “I need a Microcontroller with feature x and y” or like “I am in the mood for a vanilla ice-cream, what is around me right now?”
  2. A notification on my smart watch or smartphone (or smart earphones and smart goggles) that something I might be interested into is around me or that some news (including advertising) I might be interested into are available in my notification box (get 1 pizza, get the 2nd ½ price).

Each of us will get information tailored to our personal need, to our personal situation of the moment. No more generic advertising or data sheet, it is all about how “up-close and personal” you will get with your audience in a unique and individual fashion.

And future is (almost) here!
Applications like Payback (consumer loyalty card) and hotel booking apps are already stepping in this direction with tailored information based on location or current offers. When you come up close to the airport, your boarding pass shows up on your smartphone home screen. Beaconing and geofencing are not yet broadly used in shops but they could change the way we walk in our cities tomorrow.
API stacks for integration of digital assistants are widely available but not yet used to the extend to what they can do (yes, you can call a Uber car but you can’t “yet” have a meaningful discussion with your digital assistant about a project).
The Jarvis of the 21
st century is still to be invented but for sure, it will be on your smartphone, laptop or watch.

Consumer vs. Industrial audiences
Privacy of the user’s data is at the core of success. If you are in any way interested in the well being of your customers, your strategy should be to give full emphasis on the right of the individual not to provide you with all its information. As a company, your focus should be to work with the tools available to you to position your products and run campaigns with full respect of those privacy rules. Customers will provide you with hints and glimpses of their information as they deem relevant to their current situation. For sure, cookies from browsers, GPS positioning and eavesdropping on what they are doing on any connected device or platform shouldn’t be the base of your marking’s organisation as those will become inconsistent data, not sufficient to create an action plan upon it.
The gap between positioning towards professional audiences vs. Individual consumer is quickly closing as technology becomes more accessible. The maker movement already has shaken the high-tech industry by generalising the audience of consumerism of technology like development boards, open source software and code. The high-tech industry, from semiconductor manufacturers to distributors now have to count with garage startups and high-schooler audiences in their quest to attract new customers.

What is the next move?
Social media is still okay to advertise an event or promote digital media like a video but, when it comes to immediate product positioning, Artificial Intelligence via smart devices and digital assistants are the future. More integration is still needed via apps or consolidated service systems (marketing aggregator apps) to provide the customer with a transparent access to information where and when needed only, this way, you have a much higher chance to get the individual’s attention and a higher conversion rate on your marketing pushes.
This also means that industrial service companies like distribution channels have to become more focused on the individual rather than on a group (like application engineers), meaning that the access to information becomes more automated, less of a push… call it a computer generated pull signal. The “old” bill of material upload and thick catalog book on the corner of the desk are quickly become obsolete for a more targeted, better centred approach on the end customer. It is no longer about checking what one looks at on their browser or where they are in the world to create an advertising campaign, instead, it is about having a range of solutions available, ready to be called upon by the AI engine of the smart device carried along by each individual.

Provide your feedback
It is fast-moving times and the flux of business development is like in a white-waters rafting expedition. The ones that will catch the right current and know how to master it will win some points till the next rapids come up. Are you one of those? Let’s talk and define the future.

About the writer: Flavio Stiffan is a business development specialist with focus on creating market expansion strategies supported by academia programs. He has implemented and managed alliance networks and is at the core of academia relationship management with a network of over 130 universities and 300 technology companies and distributors. For more articles, visit
www.stiffan.eu or check out his profile on LinkedIn.

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