Tuesday, October 01, 2013

At the right time, in the right place

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about different ways that touch screens are being introduced to and used by kids. Along the same line, I see new and interesting ways that people in general are using their smartphones. One of the key trends is about having the right information presented to you without having to hunt for it or even explicitly ask for it.

Google Now was one of the first big things that came to my attention where a person doesn't have to ask things, but is presented information that will likely be helpful. It has been available on Android for a while and it'll automatically pop up notifications about traffic, meetings, flight status, etc based on context of time and place. It's more than just neat, it turns your phone into a really helpful tool without having to dig around in different apps. The iOS version of this just added notifications so it should become similarly useful for iPhones.

With the recent launch of iOS7, there are some similar features built in which will automatically add in useful info about traffic, weather, etc. I see similarities with what Google Now is providing, but perhaps not as useful. It was definitely nice to see traffic info pop up on my lock screen over the weekend telling me how long it would take to get home.

The area where I think we'll start to get a little creeped out with "Right time, right place" info is when "factual" info is mixed in with customized marketing. The movie Minority Report was famous for taking the idea of "predictive info" and presenting it in a jarring way. We all remember when Tom Cruise was confronted with dozens of customized ads as he walked down the street. While marketers may not be planning to confront us with such over-the-top ads, the day is not far off where we can quickly get customized real-time marketing without having to check for it. Groupon, Yelp, and Foursquare have all implemented some sort of notifications alerting users of deals nearby, but you frequently hear about how those notifications are more annoying and mis-guided.

So I think the charm in this is going to finding the right balance of presenting this info when people are more likely to want to see it or find it useful. Just like search ads on google or paid ads on facebook, if the ads are relevant to what the person might already be interested in, then the marketing message will go over a lot better.

Now all that being said, here's a really interesting piece about where this might all be headed:
MLB’s iBeacon Experiment May Signal A Whole New Ball Game For Location Tracking
This piece really talks about the smarts and planning that needs to go into location based info. In this case, Major League Baseball is taking a hardware and software based approach and it seems like it could be a real winner. It relies not just on people who are likely interested in the info...everyone at a ballpark is likely interesting in baseball, obviously. It relies on figuring out what the person might actually want and turn that potential desire into a transaction. It's a marketers dream in that sense. Find people who might want to buy a team sweatshirt, and get them to actually buy it by giving them a small discount. Or get them to buy an extra hot dog or soda when they might not really want it.

This isn't just about building an app. It requires connecting a lot of dots between the marketing department, the app builder, as well as the network and other hardware.

I'm really interested to see how this plays out. If this is done well, I fully expect to see this implemented at shopping malls throughout the country. There are already apps which different mall owners have, but I've never seen a reason to download them. If these apps turn into shopping services which can not only help guide shoppers around the mall, but point them to great deals, it can be a win-win. Again, the charm here is going to be in finding the right balance between the marketing message and the non-marketing, but useful information that shoppers may need. And that balance will be different for each shopper young, old, window-shopping, or ready to buy.

What do you think about this stuff? Is it heading too fast to that Minority Report marketing hell? Is it something you'd find useful?

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