What's missing in internet marketing

What's missing in internet marketing

A widely iterated phrase in the corporate circles is- ‘Marketing is changing’ but the question is how fast? Two years ago, Adobe did a survey and made a revelation that “marketing has changed more in two years than it did in last 50 years”. ‘Marketing’ which until a few years ago was an afterthought to production, sales or any other function, has become intrinsic to an organisation’s growth.

Modern day marketing is powered by engineering and data science with a blend of creativity. The CMOs are getting promoted to CEO posts, one example being McDonalds whose current global CEO was its once chief brand officer.

But what prompted this change? The change can be attributed to the meteoric growth of the Internet and mobile penetration that has opened the floodgates for a myriad number of channels through which a user could interact with a brand, all of which proportionally contributes toward his decision to make a purchase.

However, so far, there is no common identifier that links the engagement of a user across all devices and channels. In the absence of such identifier, marketers are treating every channel in silos. A single user who has interacted with a brand via x channels is treated as x different users when he is essentially just one user.

For instance, suppose you log in to the website of a brand and then to its app. Now, although you are a single user as long as long you anonymously log in, it is going to treat you as two different users.

This naturally causes vagueness in the tone of the brand. There is no context which is central to any communication. The inefficacy of brands to have a holistic view of their user prevents them from having a meaningful conversation. Brands are trying to uniquely identify their every customer.

However, to compensate for the lack of identifier that would allow brands to connect all the dots, marketers are adopting predictive technology. With predictive technology, marketers are observing the user data sets using a multitude of data intelligence tools and identifying the patterns that could give them close to a definite profile of the user.
For instance, two separate devices connected to the same wi-fi and displaying the same behaviour on the advertiser’s platform could imply that they belong to the same individual.

But since predictive assumptions cannot give you 100% reliability, business is coming up with bewildering ways to identify users. There is a company called Silverpush which uses ultrasonic inaudible sounds to track the customer of its clients.

What happens is that as soon as you open a website of a Silverpush client, your computer would release an ultrasonic sound which you naturally can’t hear but if your phone is in the range and any of your apps has Silverpush software in it, it will trace it and send a signal to the company that the phone and computer belong to the same person.

Browsing behaviour
Then, there are other hacks like supercookies – a unique capability proposed by Verizon to its partners that would let them view the browsing behaviour of the user without his consent.

The desire to track the customer journey sometimes manifests in the exceedingly invasive innovations as mentioned above. But just because you could build a technology to do something doesn’t actually mean you can go ahead and do it. The above two hacks have fortunately been disbanded by the (US) government.

How are we are messing things up? I am referring to the proliferation of spam culture wherein brands are collecting data with user’s consent or simply buying it and are exploiting it to the level of mindlessness. Just recall how your phone and desktop gets bombarded everyday with a gazillion emails, push messages, re-targeted ads on your Facebook and twitter wall etc.

The consequence of spam culture has become counter effective for marketers. Users have evolved to ignore the incrementally growing amount of spam and so a benchmark to gain user’s attention is getting higher every day.

Marketers are stuck in the idea that the louder you are, the farther you will be heard, and so they have saturated every communication medium so much that customers don’t want noise. 

Today, the problem of identifying the ways to reach out to customers has been downplayed by how to reach them right. There is no modus operandi, but what we need at the moment is the ability to fetch the right data and intent to place the consumer’s interest over ours, as marketers.

(The writer is CEO and Co-Founder, WebEngage)

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