Advances in consumer data are moving at an incredible rate. Just to recap, here are some of the big data gathering moves we’ve seen in the tech space in recent months:
- Google acquired consumer electronics maker Nest, a move towards automation of household devices and tracking people’s actions within the home
- Amazon announced details of its ‘anticipatory shipping’ model, where they’re going to send products to specific ordering hubs to account for expected demand in those areas based on previous buyer behaviour – so they’re shipping it before you’ve even considered buying it
- Companies and organisations are continually coming up with new applications for Google Glass, one of the latest being it’s potential to support people with Parkinson’s Disease. Whilst each individual application has it’s own benefits, each also expands the potential data pool through it’s use
These three alone open up a range of possibilities, and now Facebook has introduced a new advance to the mix – the introduction of an audio recognition app that will hear what music users are listening to or what show they’re watching on TV and provide prompts to share details with friends or links to further info. At this stage, Facebook is framing the app as an improved way to interact and share what they’re doing, but at some stage this info will be used for ad targeting and marketing purposes.
While it’s still in its early stages, the technology could eventually be used to provide Facebook with a whole range of new ad targeting options. Similar to geo-targeting (which is also still in implementation phase), the additional data this technology provides literally takes marketers inside people’s homes providing insights they could have only dreamed of till now. And all this without the user ever having to do a thing, other than opt-in. With privacy concerns still a big issue, that element remains a major barrier, but the number of users willing to allow audio recognition and geo-targeting will increase over time, expanding the range of options available to advertisers – imagine you knew that a user had just binge-watched the entire series of ‘The Wire’ and you could target them with ads based on shows most watched by users who’ve also watched that program? Imagine you could determine that a certain genre of music was rising in popularity in a specific town or region and you could use that to plan a tour or campaign for your own band? Imagine if you could hear discussions people were having over dinner and track that info to work out people’s next likely purchase path? The last one is probably the most concerning, but this is where consumer data is headed. The big companies want to have a presence in your every interaction – the more they know, the more they can use the data to better understand and reach you with hyper-targeted brand messages right at the time you’re most likely to be receptive to them.
Whilst concerns about privacy and data sharing are still prominent issues among users, predictive marketing is already becoming the expectation. Fears will subside over time, people will be lured by convenience and adoption by their peers and more information will get shared across social networks. And there is already a level of acceptance for targeted advertising – if people are going to see ads anyway, they want to see ads specific to them. The brands that can stay on top of this trend will be best placed to prosper in the new digital age. Already consumers expect businesses to respond to their social media queries within a day, people are growing to expect brands will find them, will hear their complaints and queries amidst their daily interactions. The importance of social media listening will only become more relevant, and those that don’t start working with the data available now are going to get left behind by those who do. Brands need to be monitoring, hearing what their target audience is saying. The more you’re listening to your target audience, the better you can work with them to create lasting relationships.
Sure, we’re a long way off that next level, where systems detect when you’re out of milk and order more automatically, but that is where things are headed. Don’t believe me? Go look at Google Now and see how that works. We are moving towards an age where predictive algorithms are built into all of our daily actions. Where systems learn what we want and suggest options, even act on our behalf. Social media data gives all brands a chance to get in on this, to start working with this trend and establish a place in the world of consumers – if you’re not hearing them, not finding them when they need, someone else will be. As data targeting advances, listening and building a platform of trust will be critical to ongoing business success.