Together we’ve looked at why context is digital marketing’s next frontier.
Since then, I’ve delved further into the topic, publishing research that looks at the value of marketing in the “phytigal” world we now inhabit, where things are as connected as devices are. Beacons, sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) are moving marketing past the screen to the objects, places, and even the conditions (weather, holidays, sales) we occupy and experience in the real world.
Contextual campaigns go well beyond “the right message to the right person at the right time.”Location, for example, plays a role. Automotive dealerships are using beacons to determine which customers visit the showroom versus the service department, enabling them to connect contextually in the right way, with the right messages, based on hyper-granular location data.
All of this is super-cool, of course, but what are the actual benefits of contextual campaigns, not only to marketers but also to the organizations they work with — as well as to the consumers they interact with? My research reveals at least 18 benefits, only some of which are directly related to marketing.
Contextual campaigns confer some very obvious benefits to marketers. More targeted and individualized communications can result in amazing ROI.
“The more context there is, the higher the ROI,” Disney SVP Gunjan Bhow tells me. In partnership with theater chains and retailers like Walmart, Disney has been targeting consumers with relevant offers. They recouped the costs of integrating numerous back-end systems to enable the initiatives (both their own and their partners’) in just three campaigns.
Context also boosts campaign attribution and can be a great contributor to customer loyalty. It enables precision in rewards and incentives; MGM Resorts triangulates location data together with purchase history to send the right offers to individuals in their properties.
And of course, there’s the cool factor. It won’t last forever as the practice grows more common, but context can produce buzz at present, as well as amplification on shared media channels, leading to differentiation in the market.
Unsurprisingly, contextual marketing begets contextual data, a massive (and complex) benefit to marketers, as well as to the organizations they work for.
Data about how, when, why and where consumers interact with brands and their products goes far beyond the marketing department. Enterprises can use this information to make decisions about how they operate. (For example, do sales of a certain product spike under specific conditions or with certain consumer segments?)
These insights also can be used to develop new products and update existing ones. Marantz is developing new types of speakers for specific locations, based on numerous consumers naming their speakers “bathroom” and “garage.” This led to developing waterproof and more rugged models of IoT-enabled electronics.
Organizations also have visibility into areas that were previously black holes, such as the supply chain. Nestlé is looking forward to the day when it can send trucks to restock only those store freezers that need more ice cream, saving man hours, fuel and the environment in the process.
Companies are also considering using data to generate new revenue streams from contextual campaigns. Another example from Marantz: It now has a plethora of data from all the streaming services in aggregate. Would Apple Music, Amazon and Pandora be willing to pay for that type of consumer data?
Unless there’s a benefit to consumers, forget about using contextual campaigns. Without clear benefits (and, of course, opt-in), context can come across as creepy and Big Brotherish.
So, how can context benefit consumers? Improved experience is a huge benefit. Helping consumers to use a product or, as Home Depot does, find an item on their shopping list when they’re in-store, provides a distinct advantage.
Customer service reaps other big benefits. Manufacturers can “see” when a printer is out of ink, or if a user has rebooted a device numerous times in a short period, then proactively reach out to help.
Finally, there’s simply being helpful and useful in a general sense in a way that’s relevant to the brand. Sportswear and equipment retailer REI offers a digital concierge service to America’s National Parks, helping their customers find the right hiking trail or learn of weather or other important conditions.
Linking context to the brand and your organization’s overarching strategy is key, not just using technology for its own sake. And with contextual, don’t forget that it’s not just the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), but also what’s in it for my organization, my customers and my prospects.