In January, I wrote about marketing’s “meeting of waters” and how mobile is acting as the connective tissue that’s tying together digital and traditional marketing practices. The meeting of waters analogy holds true because we live in an age where people are increasingly becoming connected and these connections are forever changing marketing and how marketers engage consumers. People are connected to each other, to organizations, to machines and more. Moreover, machines are connected to other machines and working on behalf of consumers. Consider the following:
- Over 28 percent of the global population uses the internet, and in most developed countries this number exceeds 75 percent.
- There are 5.3 billion mobile connections — over 54 percent of the global population — and 3.7 billion people carry and use a mobile device of some kind. Within the next few years more people will access the internet via a mobile device than any other means.
- There were 6.1 trillion text messages exchanged around the globe in 2010. Nearly 6 billion text messages are exchanged every day in the U.S.
- Over 500 million people are active Facebook users, each having an average of 130 friends, spending an average of 700 billion minutes on the site and sharing over 30 billion pieces of information each and every month.
- There are 175 million Twitter users, creating 95 million tweets per day.
- Programs offered by retailers that reward shoppers for purchasing are on the rise due to locally relevant marketing and merchandising.
- The number of smartmeter installations are increasing (a smartmeter monitors utility consumption, such as electricity and water). This data is accessible online.
- Sensors are being placed in plants so that they can tweet us when they need to be watered; in carpets so that they can tell us when they need to be cleaned; and in pills so that they can transmit through a Band-Aid and to phone biometric readings as the pill travels through our bodies. Moreover, in some parts of the world, you’ll even find sensors on produce and a wide range of consumer goods. For example, a shopper can immediately discern what farm a head of lettuce came from, the route it took to get to the store and how long it’s been sitting on the shelf by simply waving their phone.
The above online and offline activities are just small subsets of what’s happening as people go through their daily lives. Consumers always have their mobile device with them, and they’re using them to fulfill their needs.
An important undercurrent to the meeting of waters analogy and the trend toward the ever-increasing connectedness is that people are also creating and sharing more information than ever before. Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, notes more information is created every two days than from the dawn of civilization up to 2003 combined. This information can be used to create new services like personalized search and consumer engagement.
In the age of the connected consumer, Schmidt proposes that the next generation of mobile devices may be capable of tracking an individual’s actions, movements and purchases, and over time learn their interests and preferences. Later, using location and similar tracking tools, companies like Google can alert an individual not just based on their stated or shared preferences but on system inferred and predicted preferences.
This is a very powerful value proposition, one that has the opportunity to enrich the lives of consumers. Marketers have the ability to deliver value at the time of consumer expressed and inherent need. However, you must remember that key success factors to engaging consumers in this ever-connected world include your ability to be transparent in your actions and provide consumers with control over the relationships they have with marketers.
As an industry, we have the opportunity to embrace our future and maintain the course of responsible behavior. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) along with its partners is doing just that. The company recently announced its Consumer Best Practices for Messaging v6.0. The MMA has also announced an applications committee and a Privacy Initiative Task Force in coordination with its members and other organizations like the Digital Advertising Alliance to work on expanding the industry’s best practices and guidelines around how marketers and consumers are to engage each other. The outcome of this work will allow all of us in the industry to focus on sustainable growth while ensuring that we achieve this growth responsibly.