The Empowered Consumer/Customer

consumer-power2We have defined emerging media, discussed how it is currently being used, how businesses can take advantage of it for marketing, and explored a few emerging technologies that will impact our lives in the near future. So what’s the bottom line for us as consumers?
We live in a world where everything is just a click away. The internet has conditioned us to expect information and services on demand at anytime, anywhere — and often for free. It has also given us the power to share our experiences immediately, at the touch of a button. The consumer, rather than the brand, controls the interaction. Now consumers are more empowered than ever before. The internet and digital technologies have raised expectations of personalized information and services on demand.
oztm6s76emqmkepynmbi
What makes consumers empowered?
Mobile: The Empowered consumer lives on their smart phone.  It is their calendar  their map,  their library,  their credit card. It’s their digital companion – and it drives everything from what they buy to who they are.  It’s a critical assistant in all facets of their lives.
Hands-on:  Not willing to be driven by ads, or even entirely by friends recommendations – the Empowered Consumer is driven by their own ability to try before you buy,  return at will,  and click their way to new options and choices. Changes in how they shop, what they shop for, and how they expect to be treated run through the trend – with power and control at the driver of change.
Smart:  With access to multiple points of information – the Empowered Consumer is going to check sources before making a decision.  With Amazon’s consumer comments,  there’s a crowd intelligence that often beats the ‘experts.’  But it goes further – using their social network of friends and co-workers to give them feedback on potential purchases, trips,  or vendors before they even try the service. 

Committed: An Empowered Consumer can be loyal,  but only if it goes both ways.  Value comes from both price, and quality and honesty from a brand they patronize.  It’s expected that a brand will understand their needs,  their history, and everything from the way they engage to what they’ve done in the past.  Service and quality beat privacy here.

A Global Citizen:  No longer loyal to their home turf,  the Empowered Consumer is able to shop across boarders,  and patronize brands and services that meet their needs.  No single flat is flying the “Empowered Consumer” colors – it’s a world market now.

EmpoweredConsumerPhoto Credit: Qlik

As consumers, we don’t need advertisers to speak directly to us anymore. Consumers have been given the power to filter out irrelevant messages (and sometimes, technology will also do it automatically based on previous behavior). Rising expectations mean that consumers will constantly demand more and actively communicate dissatisfaction when they don’t get what they want. Consumers expect a two-way dialogue with brands and personalized ads relevant to their needs.
This is why consumers should embrace emerging media and technologies. They will directly impact consumers’ daily lives, and it is important to be educated about them in order to understand their significance and relevance. Technology has given consumers more choice. Remember to keep your eye on the media because one never knows just what is in store for the future. What will they think of next?

Keep Up or Get Left Behind

pace-of-technology-hr-examiner-sumser-200pxWhen it comes to using emerging media in Integrated Marketing Communications, marketers have to stay on top of emerging technologies. The pace of change in the technology sector seems to accelerate at an ever-increasing rate. It can be hard to try to keep up with the “next big thing,” but we know technology empowers companies to grow faster, produce better products and serve customers more effectively. It connects a workforce, analyzes data and allows products to be manufactured precisely.

Here are six things that Daniel MacKechnie of Demand Media recommends for organizations:

Back view image of young businessman standing against business sketch

IT Strategy

Every company should develop an Information Technology (IT) strategy that defines the role that technology performs within the organization. Manufacturers can identify higher production standards, improve time required to introduce a new product or create a reduction in manufacturing costs. Professional service organizations may focus on improved field staff communications, remote access and time-tracking tools.

Senior Management Sponsorship

Too often, a company’s technology is dispersed throughout a number of departments. The accounting department maintains its own system, the sales department uses a standalone prospect management system and the logistics people track inventory and shipments using their own software. The result is a hodgepodge of solutions that offer limited communications between divisions. Assigning a senior manager to a company’s IT changes that, allowing for oversight and more open systems. It empowers senior management to seek technologies that benefit the entire company, not simply ones that assist in day-to-day opportunities.

Research and Development Budget

Assigning budget dollars for research into new technologies or money for a team of developers is necessary for companies to remain current with their technologies. For smaller companies, this may be a fairly small budget that allows for sending employees to industry conferences and trade shows. For larger companies, it might mean allocating some IT resources to experiment with different development ideas.

Tests and Trials

Many companies choose a product and implement it across the organization based on product materials and demonstrations. While this may work for smaller, easily defined products, it can be counter-productive for larger solutions. One viable alternative is to test regularly. If a company is considering a change to a new technology, managing a real-world trial with a small number of technologically knowledgeable employees, a single department or one branch might yield tremendous insight.

Centralized Governance

Larger companies trying to manage IT priorities and budgets often allocate money and resources using a centralized governance scheme. This model invites department heads to present their desired upgrades to a board of senior staff, who approve and prioritize projects typically overseen by the IT manager. Many companies use a standard project, which has already been fully evaluated by IT staff. It also strongly encourages enterprise solutions that connect various departments.

Constant Upgrades

Companies seeking to remain current can bypass much of the expense IT spends by using their own tech-savvy employees. When a new mobile device is released there are likely a number of employees willing to test the device. These early-adopters will live with the annoyances that comes with new technology, offering opinions openly. The same can be said for new versions of existing software, and computer hardware. This approach is hardly scientific, but will usually provide a good sense of the functionality and perils of the upgrade.

Keeping abreast of new developments is an ongoing job with substantial risk and rewards. However, companies wishing to harness technological advances as a competitive advantage must constantly seek newer, faster and better technologies to improve their business.

Emerging Technologies of 2015

EmergingTechnologiesPicIn the past four decades technology has fundamentally altered our lives: from the way we work to how we communicate to how we fight wars. These technologies have not been without controversy, and many have sparked intense debates that are often polarized or embroiled in scientific ambiguities or dishonest demagoguery. For some people, the idea of new technologies can be exciting. For others, the change can be scary, especially with issues like privacy.

The notion of “emerging” technology does not necessarily mean that all such advances are new or revolutionary by themselves. Some have already been around for years or, in various forms, for decades (for example, fuel-cell vehicles, artificial intelligence, the digital genome, additive manufacturing methods). They are now transitioning to a new phase, however, becoming more widely used or incorporated in consumer goods. In one way or another all these technologies are bound to gain more ground in coming years.

Fuelcellcsio-wearable-insblogs-1

telesarsmallTechnology is perhaps the greatest agent of change in the modern world. Although never without risk, technological breakthroughs promise solutions to the most pressing global challenges of our time. Therefore, innovators want consumers to spend less time fearing change and more time embracing it.

Take a look at these examples. Here are the top 10 emerging technologies of 2015. (Click the link to read more about them in depth.)

  • 1. Fuel-cell vehicles
    Zero-emission cars that run on hydrogen
  • 2. Next-generation robotics
    Rolling away from the production line
  • 3. Recyclable thermoset plastics
    A new kind of plastic to cut landfill waste
  • 4. Precise genetic-engineering techniques
    A breakthrough offers better crops with less controversy
  • 5. Additive manufacturing
    The future of making things, from printable organs to intelligent clothes
  • 6. Emergent artificial intelligence
    What happens when a computer can learn on the job?
  • 7. Distributed manufacturing
    The factory of the future is online—and on your doorstep
  • 8. “Sense and avoid” drones
  • 9. Neuromorphic technology
    Computer chips that mimic the human brain
  • 10. Digital genome
    Health care for an age when your genetic code is on a USB stick

188799409348938939A9Ws7TNZcAfter looking over the list, many of these technologies seem like they would be helping the greater good. Yes there will undoubtedly be some risks and concerns involved, but as long as they can be remedied and the positive effects outweigh the negative ones, then consumers should be more open to accepting them.

We must welcome innovation and the benefits it brings us. But we must also remain committed to sustainable development, taking into account issues of inequality, human dignity and inclusiveness. Some technologies might progress independently of political support. But good governance, examinations of dual-use risks and ethical considerations must still remain guiding posts at all times. Ultimately, how we approach the regulation of emerging technologies will inevitably have wide implications—not only for security and ethics but for our definition of human dignity and the equality of individuals. What new technologies are you looking forward to seeing?

Dare to Share? Issues with Privacy and Emerging Technology

Three-Ways-to-Pursue-Cloud-Data-Privacy-with-Medical-Records_webNowadays, it is rare to see a person without a mobile device of some kind, including a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or mp3 player. These devices have become important parts of our lives and we don’t go a day without using them. We download apps and access the Internet on a daily basis for our enjoyment like it’s not a big deal. What if you knew that most of the apps you use everyday were collecting data on you? Would you still use them? Whether you were paying attention or not, chances are you gave the makers of these apps permission to collect data on you when you agreed to download the apps. It is not always clear exactly what data is being collected, but that data is usually sold to third parties for advertising purposes. Now information about you, that you may not have wanted to share, is floating out there for advertisers and marketers to grab for the taking.

With the rise of social networking technologies and companies’ increasing focus on personalizing consumer experiences in the online sphere, privacy and data protection today are important issues to numerous industries. Internet technologies pose numerous challenges and opportunities for rights holders. The Privacy Act only covers personal information. Any information that is not personal information is not covered by the Act. Under the new definition, personal information is information about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable.

Information can therefore be personal information in two ways. The first where information directly identifies an individual — what we normally think of as our “personal information”. In other words, this would be the unique identifiers needed for our lives such as our name, email address. and credit card number. The second where information does not directly identify an individual, but that information can be combined with other information to identify that individual.

A residential address is a good case in point. An address does not identify an individual directly. 742 Evergreen Terrace is not an unique identifier. However, 742 Evergreen Terrace can be used as a means to combine different pieces of non-personal information together to reveal the identity of an individual. 742 Evergreen Terrace + Duff Beer drinker + doughnut consumer + balding head + nuclear power plant worker = Homer Simpson.

392560-internet-privacy-infographic-450Targeting consumers on mobile devices creates new challenges as marketers deal with complex environments and need to carefully consider how to deal with the issue of privacy. New technology requires education – consumers need to understand how to manage their privacy. New technologies include cross-device programmatic platforms and geo-location processing platforms. Cross-device platforms capture information from consumers on both desktop and mobile without using personal identifiable information (PII). They use data points available on mobile web and app browsers and pair it with devices. Geo-location platforms use location data to create, or tie to, user profiles and provide consumers with relevant mobile advertising. Respecting consumer privacy is of paramount importance when protecting a company’s brand reputation. The solution for companies is to provide transparency about their data collection practices and offer ways for consumers to manage their privacy preferences across different advertising networks and platforms.

While many people realize that businesses and governments track their activities online, the vast majority do not realize the extent to which tracking occurs and how much information about them is available to parties whom they do not know. A new online interactive documentary, that is available for free online, seeks to change that by educating Internet users (i.e., most of humanity) in a clear and fun fashion about the risks that they truly need to understand.

TRUSTeMobilePrivacy06Image courtesy of a study done by TRUSTe

Even with consumers being educated, it is still a scary thought to know that there will be times data is collected without permission. I believe permission should always be requested before information can be shared to prevent these privacy issues and potentially build trust between marketers and consumers. So do you dare to share? More often than not, you don’t have a choice.

The Internet of Things: Ready or Not, It’s Here

14ec24dSince marketers are increasingly placing machines in control, that gives way to concepts like the Internet of Things (IoT). The “Internet of Things” has become one of the most talked about tech trends in recent years. And as more and more everyday objects become infused with web connectivity, the opportunities for product innovation are huge. A new era of product innovation is under way as more and more items are designed to connect to the “internet of things”. With the internet of things, no product is an island. Any device can be assigned an IP (internet protocol) address that allows it to connect and talk with other “things”. We have been designing products that connect to the internet for quite some time: computers, smartphones, TVs – even home appliances. What is different about this new trend we are calling the internet of things? The difference lies in the variety of things we are connecting to the internet, and the entirely new scenarios this variety is fueling.

Since internet-connected devices can sense their environment and collect behavior history, they become an entirely new army of data collection devices, constantly harvesting data and pumping it into the “big data” tank. If the traditional version of the internet was about data created by people, the internet of things is about data created by things.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is also revolutionizing business operations that are maybe less attractive for consumers but very real and tangible, from logistics to marketing. See graphic below.

Marketing-power-of-the-Internet-of-Things-infographic-by-MarketoPhoto Credit: Renilde De Wit, a partner of i-SCOOP

So what does all this really mean? According to Daniel Burrus of Burrus Research, when people talk about “the next big thing,” they’re never thinking big enough. It’s not a lack of imagination; it’s a lack of observation.  The buzz around the Internet of Things is that it revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication; it’s built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors; it’s mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection; and they say it’s going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports “smart.”

So much of the chatter has been focused on machine-to-machine communication (M2M): devices talking to you like devices. But a machine is an instrument, it’s a tool, it’s something that’s physically doing something. When we talk about making machines “smart,” we’re not referring strictly to M2M. We’re talking about sensors. A sensor is not a machine. It doesn’t do anything in the same sense that a machine does. It measures, it evaluates; in short, it gathers data. The Internet of Things really comes together with the connection of sensors and machines. That is to say, the real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the intersection of gathering data and leveraging it. All the information gathered by all the sensors in the world isn’t worth very much if there isn’t an infrastructure in place to analyze it in real time.

Cloud-based applications are the key to using leveraged data. The Internet of Things doesn’t function without cloud-based applications to interpret and transmit the data coming from all these sensors. The cloud is what enables the apps to go to work for you anytime, anywhere. Of all the technology trends that are taking place right now, perhaps the biggest one is the Internet of Things; it’s the one that’s going to give us the most disruption as well as the most opportunity over the next five years.

Unknown

Photo Credit: i-Scoop

New Rules, New Tools

Now we get to take a look at how marketers utilize emerging media…

EmergingMediaToolsAfter a company/brand figures out exactly who its audience is and the best ways to connect with them, they have to start actually making those connections. Many are turning to emerging media for assistance. Why? Well, marketers realize that the consumer of today is a very different creature from the consumer of fifty years ago. The development of the Internet, the creation of the social network, and the birth of new media have changed everything, from the way we communicate to the way we entertain ourselves straight down to the way we think. As a result, marketing tactics which may once have worked are now completely irrelevant, and organizations which take a traditional approach to customer relations are very likely to find themselves in the dust of their competitors, says Nicholas Greene. You can read more about this in: Ten Ways New Media has Changed the Face of Marketing

According to Millward Brown, new technologies are emerging all the time that give new_media_bugmedia agencies greater control over how and when consumers are exposed to brand messages, but there are still huge challenges surrounding how to connect plans across media silos and how to reduce and make sense of digital data complexity. Creative agencies have a more exciting box of tricks and more ad formats to play with than ever before, but telling a coherent, consistent, and connected multi-screen and multimedia story across different audience generations is no easy task.

ChangesIn other words, the game has changed. The world of marketing has evolved alongside new media, and what has resulted is a system which would have been completely unrecognizable – and, perhaps, wholly absurd – to a marketing professional just a few short decades ago. Just as new media has changed the consumer, it’s also changed the professional – and the way those professionals communicate.

With many marketers increasingly placing the machine in control, programmatic buying can result in smarter targeting of messages based on location and behavioral learning, yet there remain many questions about whether programmatic campaigns can add up to a meaningful brand-building story. Finally, there are more planners keen to place the consumer in control, ensuring that brand messages fit neatly into their consumer’s lifestyle and that the brand is there for their consumers whenever and wherever they choose to reach out. All of this leads to phenomenons such as the Internet of Things, which we’ll discuss next time. One thing that remains the same is that the goal for marketers will always be to do what they think is in the best interest of the consumer.

Making the Right Connections

plugman-mobileWe, as consumers, use media everyday for many reasons and can access it in multiple ways. Many companies and brands realize this and have been trying to use this knowledge to their advantage. However, it is important to realize that brands must make a connection with their customers first. In the beginning, the issue is less about digital media and the many exciting technologies and opportunities and more about the state of marketing and branding. The challenge has less to do with emerging media than it does emerging consumer behavior, according to Sharon Love in Hub Magazine.

Too often, we manage brands and marketing in a mechanical, linear fashion with the entire focus on the same old thing: delivering a message to a consumer. That’s no longer good enough. We typically think of digital as an independent and isolated medium, though that has been changing of late. We need to accelerate that thinking because it’s precisely the opposite: It’s about making connections. Marketing used to be about vehicles and channels, but now it’s about platforms and networks. In today’s world, brands must be part of consumers’ daily, digitized lives. Marketing’s goal is no longer about being integrated; it’s now about being networked. Accordingly, brands must provide a networked experience to consumers and shoppers. This requires, in part, an understanding of how consumers and shoppers are using devices and media to make decisions in their daily lives, and using that understanding to develop new products, improve current ones and create marketing programs.
business-2-consumer-header1
Lauren Moores, Vice President of Analytics at Dstillery, says “Since the emergence of digital media, the relationship between brands and consumers has shifted from one-sided messages pushed from brands to consumers to an interactive conversation between the two. Once brands get a feel for what consumers want, they can begin to start using emerging media for optimal reach. Technology advances and the explosion of new devices and media sources has created another sea change in the way brands and consumers interact. In just the past seven years, global smartphone penetration has risen from 9% to 39%, with US penetration topping 53%. With mobile phones now providing 24/7 connectivity, how are brands responding to the potential opportunities? Connection, interaction and conversation.

Connecting to the consumer is not about experimenting with the next shiny media vehicle just to be trendy. Instead, it is about using technology and increased data signals to reach your consumers where they are, with messaging using the digital media that they prefer. The key is finding the means to tell your brand story in a way that your consumer is most receptive to hearing it, and responding accordingly.”

One example of a brand using emerging media to fit their audience is Anheuser budlight_caseBusch, according to Lauren Moores, Vice President of Analytics at Dstillery. Anheuser Busch created its “Beer Garage” in Silicon Valley to focus on marketing innovation for its 200-plus brands. The “Beer Garage” works with partners in the emerging technology and media space to extend the ways it can connect with consumers. The partnerships include working with Twitter and the NFL to allow fans to tweet for a beer during Miami Dolphins games and the recent release of a new Bud Light Button, a beer delivery app created with an eCommerce startup called Drizly. This brand is using a partnership with existing media platforms and innovative startups to expand the connecting points to their audience.

It’s all about making the right connections with the intended audiences. What works for some brands will not work for all brands. Consumers want to know that brands are taking the time to get to know them on a personal level. The great thing is, emerging media can help brands achieve just that.