Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Connecting the Dots

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Connecting the Dots

Article excerpt

The data we generate by using electronic devices and the web could create a business opportunity.

The web we all know and love is a web of sites. From YouTube to MSN, Google to Directgov, these exist to facilitate the exchange of content between humans. While the web will continue to fulfil this purpose, it is also becoming the conduit for machine to talk to machine. The implications of this will be as profound for society as for marketing.

To those with the tools and willingness to listen, the web has opened up a new dimension in understanding consumers. By tracking their actions in the spaces we occupy, we can learn about what motivates them, their buying habits and favourites.

We can tell what keywords they use to search a few days before buying something from us and create a statistical relationship with that outcome to give a value for that point of influence. We can tell which affiliates are creating real value and which slip in at the end of the process and claim the credit for all the hard work done by our other marketing activities. We can see how many times consumers visit before purchase and tie together their activity on our site with a CRM programme, so we reactivate abandoned baskets and sell accessories subsequent to a core purchase.

All this - and much more - is possible (although still unusual). Yet all of it relies on data collected from consumers' activity online.

What if we could build that out to the rest of the world? What if we could collect behavioural and contextual data from the interactions of machines with the world, consumers and each other?

The embedding of increasingly cost-trivial sensors into all sorts of devices is starting to create a world where millions of machines are reporting information back to servers.

It started with hackers and, on the early web, a flurry of coffee machines being connected to the internet, starting with one at the Cambridge University computer lab in 1993. Now though, hackers are competing with serious players to connect anything they can think of Facilities managers are remote-monitoring buildings via feeds of temperature, weather and energy consumption over the web. Consumers are using their iPhones to connect to their home-security systems remotely, enabling them to view the security-camera footage wherever they are. Many of these are sharing their data through platforms like Pachube - a kind of YouTube for data feeds.

Nokia and the University of California showed how mobile phones could be used to observe road traffic patterns, by sensing the transit of handsets through the cellular network. …

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