Synthalitics – setting a new benchmark for customer engagement

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Have you noticed recently that your web browsing experience is becoming narrower, more confined and focused? What about those pesky ads that follow you from one website to another? Do they annoy or help you? It seems that all it takes is one visit to a retail website, and next thing you know, that retailer’s ads are stuck to your computer screen, appearing in every available ad spot across the web.

If this sounds like you – then you’re not alone. You’re actually part of the newly emerging real time web that combines big data and analytics to track and target you in search of that all-consuming sales conversion.

Businesses are putting their data to work

There has been significant progress in the world of analytics in recent times. The masses of data that has been collected for decades is now, thanks to the meshing of powerful, purpose built hardware and software, available to business decision makers at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. This on-premise information is a rich source of vitality data that – with the appropriate mapping and analysis, can reveal hidden truths about our customers, their lives, lifestyles and even their futures.

Meanwhile, customers are themselves, increasingly self-tagging, self-identifying and self-analyzing their daily activities, weekly routines and personal aspirations. This information, in turn, is floating around the web, being stored, collated and cross-referenced to improve the effectiveness of our communal and personal web experiences. From the captcha codes that Google uses to improve its OCR book scanning to the social media check-ins that Facebook and ad networks use to micro-target and re-target advertising, the potential for augmenting a business’ on-premise data with publicly available “big data” is revolutionary.

The emergence of synthalitics will change marketing

“Synthalitics” is the combining of public data with business data, cross-pollinated with customer’s business and credit history, matched with their real time social and location-based information – and made available for a business rules engine at point of interaction. It may sound far-fetched, but it already available in a crude form that will improve as software and hardware improve. Just look to real time bidding advertising networks and ad re-targeting.

These are the pesky ads that follow you from one website to another. The technology clearly works, but advertisers have yet to apply creativity and insight to the re-targeting process. Rather than playing the same ad over and over, ad networks and advertisers will need to become more nuanced in their efforts and connected in their digital storytelling before these feel anything other than intrusive. But this will happen. And what currently appears clunky will, in very short order, become common place – and if we (as consumers) are lucky, it may even become useful.

The growth in real time bidding (RTB) display advertising indicates that businesses are rapidly acclimatizing to this digital world. In the US, RTB spending was expected to hit $3.34 billion in 2013 representing a massive 73.9% growth over the previous year. By 2017, eMarketer suggests this figure will hit $8.69 billion. The automation of digital display will create a gulf between those brands that understand and can integrate digital formats into their strategy and those that can’t – and clearly, this will accelerate through 2017.

Synthalitics deliver one-to-one engagement at scale

However, RTB is just one part of the digital story. Marketers need tools that can absorb the vitality data, augment it with big data-like, location based, self reported data (available through smartphones and social check-ins) and corporate CRM data and synthesize it in such a way that it reveals new and potentially predictive patterns (see diagram below). This is about knowing who your buyers trust.

imageIncreasingly, sales and marketing teams will need to work through a central platform to be able to contextualize business critical information about a prospect’s digital behaviour, needs and expectations. Or if no central platform or suite of tools are available, the need for frictionless data and aggregation points will become vital. The gulf between digitally-enabled and analogue businesses will grow, with the former over-running and out-innovating the latter.

Businesses without a digital transformation agenda need to rapidly reassess their strategy and go to market models. In short order – synthalitics will transform marketing and sales as we know it. And it is synthalitics that will deliver on the promise of one-to-one engagement at scale.

The question for you and your brand is not whether you are READY, but whether you have even STARTED.

The Many Colours of Digital Disruption

Nielsen Social Media Report 2012

From almost any angle, businesses are under pressure. Connected customers are out-flanking business efforts to control the flow of goods and services and manage relationships in an increasingly connected economy. The global economy continues to struggle under the weight of misguided policies, sovereign debt and an entitled corporatocracy that aims to “maximize the status quo” . As Seth Godin points out, this industrial focus on our economy has a limited future:

Today’s industrialists define our economy, but they offer very little promise for tomorrow. They’ve long bought ads to polish their image, but mostly work to alter the culture in ways that will ensure they’ll get just a little bit more yield out of each of us.

But as Mary Meeker’s 2012 recap on the state of the internet suggests, disruption is the new normal. And when it comes to digital, disruption comes in many colours.

Five Impacts of Digital Media
Writing on the invention of the printing press, Elizabeth Eisenstein suggested there were five impacts that transformed society of the time. In 2012, we too can see these impacts playing out in our personal and professional lives (and all the spaces in-between):

  • Experts coming under pressure from new voices who are early adopters of new technology
  • New organisations emerging to deal with the social, cultural and political changes
  • There is a struggle to revise the social and legal norms — especially in relation to intellectual property
  • The concepts of identity and community are transformed
  • New forms of language come into being
  • Educators are pressured to prepare their students for the newly emerging world

Nielsen Social Media Report 2012 signals the end to the industrial age of marketing

Nielsen Social Media Attitudes

Showcasing each of these five impacts, the Nielsen Social Media Report for 2012 signals not only that “social media has come of age”, but that digital has truly arrived as a force that can no longer be ignored. Once, the staunchest defender of an analogue ratings system, Nielsen’s own transformation confirms that the industrial age of marketing is closing and that a new era has arrived.

Marketers are not only under pressure to respond to the mega trends outlined above – they must also address the five pillars of enterprise disruption which are playing havoc with business strategy and engagement tactics. These days marketers must consider:

  • A strategy of mobile only, not mobile first: Not only are mobile technologies different in form and shape. They are taking over our patterns of adoption and consumption. With mobile devices already outselling PCs in India and China, it is expected that this change will impact Australia, the US and Europe in 2014. With long lead times and a dearth of digital skills within organisations, marketers will need to move now to serve their connected consumers who prowl the digital landscape. And rather than thinking mobile first, marketers need to think mobile only
  • Social is mobile: Mobility is not only an issue for interruption – or even permission based marketing. It is an issue for social engagement platforms. App usage now accounts for more than a third of social networking time. There is still significant space for growth – and marketers will need to understand how this mobile+social dimension impacts the customer experience
  • Social TV is disrupting broadcast: While the focus is currently on Twitter as a social TV enablement platform, this is an area ripe for disruption. Just as publishers were slow to respond to digital and are now facing significant business model challenges, broadcast networks have also been slow to invest, experiment and learn from social technologies. This has opened the door to innovative startup who will continue to outpace the industrial age broadcasters
  • The buyer’s journey has changed forever: The marketing funnel as a concept is over 100 years old. In a digital world, its linear process is also a mark of the industrial marketing era. It’s time for marketers to re-cast the marketing funnel for consumer engagement.

Download the Nielsen report and let me know what you think. Will it change the way you plan and execute your marketing efforts in 2013?