Marketing is about to get a whole lot more complicated. As the costs of connectivity, hardware, and software services continue to deflate, as access to the internet continues to rise, as device and application innovation fans to every industry, as offline moves increasingly online, the consumer paradigm is shifting.
What’s happening is that this technology is enabling a proliferation of touchpoints, or points at which a consumer interacts with a product, service, or brand. Collectively these emerging touchpoints are redefining brands’ ability to interact with consumers, and consumers’ ability to interact with brands.
Understanding touchpoint proliferation
What exactly do we mean by touchpoint proliferation? Today, we have the ability to digitalize almost anything. This is what is meant by the term Internet of Things. As a result, traditionally offline objects are now being brought online as connected "things": new channels, platforms, or tracking mechanisms. Below is an image showing the evolution of consumer touchpoints over time.
Digitalizing ‘hings creates the opportunity for implicit or explicit dialog between consumer and brand at a personalized level. Each touchpoint is the portal through which information flows. These dialogues are where the opportunities (e.g. intelligence, communications, service, automation, etc.) lie, both for marketers and other business functions.
The list in the image above will only continue to grow as technology and integration capabilities evolve. In addition, the rising adoption and culture of smartphones around the globe (equipped with a host of sensors) are building the infrastructure for marketers to leverage these devices for access to individuals, at scale.
Marketers must embrace data now more than ever
By bringing online traditionally offline objects, we grant them a data stream, a sort of voice. Complicating this is the fact that the data generated by any one touchpoint is really only a small fraction of the holistic understanding to be gained. Enter Big Data.
To make meaning from data, streams are analyzed or integrated in aggregate. Social data, loyalty data, transactional data, CRM data, demographic data, weather data, product data, and a long-tail list of other data sources are typically combined with the data streams of any given touchpoint to derive signal from noise.
Approaching the Holy Grail of marketing
The result of these evolving technologies and capabilities is that marketers have never been closer to obtaining that proverbial "Holy Grail" of Marketing: right content, right person, right time, right place. Marketers can now observe, measure, and understand consumer behaviors more richly (and more immediately) than ever before. They can use such intelligence to empirically inform (and sometimes even automate through algorithms) how they provide service, market to, and interact with individual consumers based on their unique histories and preferences. Technology now enables relationships at a much deeper and personalized level.
But this can’t be mastered overnight. Marketers can begin to think about leveraging emerging touchpoints in two ways:
Remember, embracing new touchpoints also doesn’t mean adopting new technology for technology’s sake. Marketers must zoom out from the mystique of emerging technologies, align programs with the larger digital strategy within the organization, and leverage the technology to serve these goals by bridging gaps and opportunities.