Today, we use our devices to satisfy our every need. Our friends text us asking us whether we want to try out a new restaurant (communication, on demand) and we look it up on our phones to read its menu (decision-making, on demand). Google Maps shows us that the restaurant is not far (directions, on demand), but being responsible people who are not going to have a couple draft beers with our meal and drive, we order an Uber to get there (transportation, on demand). At the restaurant, we do not know the difference between Chimichurri and a Chimichanga, so we discreetly Google both under the table (saving face, on demand).
Google has named these intent-rich moments “micro-moments.” In 2015, they commissioned Forrester Research to measure the efficacy of marketers to deliver brand value on demand in these critical instances. The report, titled “Moments that Matter: Intent-Rich Moments Are Critical to Winning Today’s Consumer Journey,” paints the picture of a marketing industry in flux. Marketers are aware of the need for “instant gratification,” but according to Forrester, merely 2 percent of organizations have the necessary capabilities to identify, deliver on and measure micro-moments.
To provide instant gratification, you need to know your consumers better than they know themselves. Psychology, analytics, personas, customer journey mapping — leverage any tool you can, because these moments can happen at any time, and you also have to be able to predict when and what they will be looking for.
But there is another wrinkle here: the balance between privacy and convenience. How does the 21st-century marketer deliver experiences on demand without leaving the consumer feeling like an Orwellian big brother is watching?
Do Not Put a Target on Your Back
You may remember how Target used analytics to identify pregnant women based on their purchases. Target used a “pregnancy prediction score” to target coupon books of baby products to expectant mothers. A father apparently learned his teenaged daughter was pregnant when Target mailed her one of the baby product coupon booklets. Target received backlash from consumers. For marketers to properly insert themselves into micro-moments, an even deeper level of insight than this is required. Has the public become desensitized since then? Or has the delivered convenience of on-demand services reached the point that consumers are more than willing to look past privacy concerns?
The Demand for On-Demand
In 2014 alone, over $4 billion dollars of venture capital money poured into on-demand startups. It is no surprise that VC firms chasing the elusive hockey stick curve are bullish on startups that deliver products and services for micro-moments.
But it has not all been rosy. Despite $40 million in funding, on-demand home service startup Homejoy closed its metaphorical doors. Best described as “Uber for housecleaning,” Homejoy was doomed by labor disputes, but it is larger than that. Homejoy is not an early indication that the on-demand market is overvalued, but instead shows its limitations. Consumers value the privacy of their homes and are not comfortable with letting just anybody in to clean. It will be important for marketers to understand these limits when learning how to deliver personalized micro-moments to a consumer.
Finding the Limits
Google, on the other hand, came under fire for allegedly implementing code that allows a chrome extension to eavesdrop on conversations held in front of the computer. Google denies that the mic listens to anything until it is triggered by a hot-word detection of “OK Google,” but I would be lying if I did not say I noticed more of the developers on my team covering the mics on their computers with tape.
The lines between personal and private are becoming increasingly blurred, and as marketers, we face an incredible challenge to navigate this successfully. The same rules that apply to advertising apply to data collection and personalization. Consumers are OK with brands reaching out in public spaces, but we do not want brands in our beds whispering pillow talk to us.
Consumers Want the Illusion of Making the Choice, Not to Feel Like it has Been Made for Them
Ultimately, the name of the game is reciprocity. In the case of Target’s much-maligned pregnancy prediction score, consumers did not ask for the intrusion. Target would argue that their pregnancy prediction metrics are about learning and satisfying the latent needs of their consumers, but the exchange is brand-initiated; Target is selling something to the consumer.
Today, more than ever, consumers want to, and do, control brands. Buying is consumer-initiated — an important distinction from the brand-initiated process of being sold to. If the data you are collecting informs a transaction that is consumer-initiated, they will be delighted that you are able to better tailor the brand interaction to precisely what they need in that moment.
In the right hands, sophisticated data lakes ultimately lead to consumer empowerment. True value from data collection lies not in the complexity and breadth of inputs that you are able to measure, but the strength of the output or insight that you are able to provide for the end user. Responsible micro-marketing that empowers the consumer will ensure 2017 is not like 1984.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Josh Hallett