March 26, 2012

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You & Your Data You've probably been hearing a lot about Big Data; huge databases accumulated by companies. The challenge is to make sense of that data in ways that personalize the experience for consumers and sell more stuff. The other faster moving data trend is collecting different sets of data, linking them and automating them to serve specific purposes. A huge number of start-ups are based on this premise. They use Facebook, as the database of choice because it’s rich (and getting richer each day) in personal information and because Facebook has made it easy and cheap for developers to get access to its data. Imagine a travel company that uses your Facebook info (posts, photos, apps, games) to figure out what kind of traveler you are. They know or can infer who you are, where you went, whom you went with and what you did there. Then they marry your info to a database of travel locations and deals and serve you up offers that match your style and your inferred budget. The richer the data sets; the richer the value to you and to them. The underlying assumption is that people will appreciate data mash-ups because it will yield more personal, relevant and valuable ways to enrich our lives expand our connections one to each other and make our money go further. At the moment this might seem, far-fetched. But when you realize that more than 25% of the population has always lived with the Internet and is very comfortable with living out loud, sharing their actions and ideas publicly and is quickly embracing the latest technology, you can begin to see the near-term future. The use of data is simultaneously creepy and useful. Studies have shown that the vast majority of Americans will trade off private data for utility or value. As data sets automatically talk to each other, this trade-off will be perceived as less scary and more useful. We’ll get used to being cued and prompted easily and quickly. A principle tool for data collection is your mobile phone. You may not realize it but everything you do with your phone is stored and captured. It’s easy to figure out who you talk to or text, how often, from where and at what times. Your phone's GPS device records and potentially tracks or monitors your whereabouts and movements. The built-in accelerometer can imply what activities you do, the speed you do it and the likely impact. There are many apps with sensors that measure and record vital stats like blood pressure, heart rate, etc. All of these technologies reveal a great deal about you that could be used to personalize offers and enrich or personalize a brand experience. This is data arena is where technologists and entrepreneurs are playing today. There will be some horrific privacy breaches and some amazing new gadgets that come out of this tension between privacy and technology.
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Target Content by Device Armed with smartphones, tablets and laptop/desktop computers, consumers are beginning to use each device to do distinct tasks. And while e-mail, Internet access, search, Facebook, music, photos and gaming are widely used on all three screens, increasingly consumers are turning to specific tools to accomplish specific things. Smartphones are the all purpose in-motion utility device. The voice/text/audio recording tool replacing watches, alarm clocks, instant cameras, to-do lists, address books, PDAs, gameboys, calendars, weather 800 numbers and soon -- wallets. Tablets are becoming multi-dimensional infotainment centers. And personal computers, which are more likely than either phones or tablets to be shared devices, are serious tools for serious matters and the repository, or gateway to the cloud repository, of our key files and critical data. The division of labor seems to a function of technical capabilities, psychology, demographics and habits. People are used to doing certain things on the go, like texting, calling, checking e-mail, tweeting, etc. Shopping is a mixed bag. According to PriceGrabber, 1 percent of on online shoppers will buy exclusively using a mobile device and another 45 percent will combine offline, online and mobile to make a purchase. And while the number of these tasks is expanding to include payments, ticketing or boarding passes and app use, we are, after all, creatures of habit where tradition and inertia plus ease of use drive many of our behaviors. 107 million Americans, 46% of US adults own a smartphone. The average person glances at their phone 150 times at or every 6.5 minutes. Fifteen percent download mobile apps, 10% research products using their phone and 4% bought something with an average value of $80. Forty-eight percent use their phone to get coupons and 44 percent check product reviews. Forty percent use their phones while watching TV and two-thirds listen to music on their phones. Payments are the next new thing for smart phone users. The 54.8 million tablet users, 19 percent of US adults, account for 22 percent of Internet users and are generally concentrated among the better educated and higher earning segments, more than half of whom are millennials. Four times more tablet users access the Internet on their device than smart phone users and they spend 4.4 hours/week using their tablets accounting for 4 percent of online retail traffic. Seventy-two percent make weekly purchases averaging $123.00, about twice the time smartphone users spend shopping and twice the value of smart phone purchases. Tablets are becoming the preferred device for consuming long form content that requires longer attention spans. More than half of tablet users use apps, watch videos, read newspapers or magazines, read books or play games on their devices. More than half have paid for access to music, books, movies or TV shows. iPad users, the majority of tablet owners, spend 35 percent of their time surfing the web, 22% on social media, 12 percent each on playing games or watching videos. Desktops and laptops have perceptually merged in consumers’ minds. And while these computers introduced us to e-mail, web video, games, ecommerce and social media the portability, speed, and convenience of tablets are eclipsing the laptop. Yet consumers overwhelming see legacy devices as more secure and critical for storing information, It’s hard to imagine consumers filling out a mortgage, credit card or the common college application on a phone or a tablet. Similarly, even though tablet traffic to tax preparations sites is up 50 percent, most of us still do our taxes and our financial work on desktops or laptops. Savvy marketers will keep an eye on these behaviors and will create content, build messaging and promotions using native functionality built-into the devices in tandem with variables like day of week, time of day, GPS location and other factors to leverage existing device usage and provide consumers with an experience that will feel natural, organic, useful and fun.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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