Everybody likes to pontificate on what the future of digital
media is, some of the usual suspects for inclusion being mobile,
tablets and augmented reality. But platforms aside, the future of
digital will actually be driven by topics of a much less
interesting or 'sexy' nature, data and how it is used.
Its not big data, its just data
The phrase 'big data' seems to have entered the vocabulary of
marketers but the suggestion that there is something new about what
we are doing with data is misleading. All that has changed is
the availability of data and the volume that is available.
Marketers and companies have been collecting data for years
for use in direct mail, in store profiling and personalised
communications. Now, that data is just collected through page
impressions, clicks and website visits rather than surveys.
The fact we are now collecting it virtually without interrupting
the customer experience means the sheer volume of data available
has grown exponentially. And with the intelligence and rapid
development of digital media software we are able to process it and
use it to improve our campaign performance in real time.
In addition you to this you have the growing opportunity of tying
this all together with offline customer data which means the
company starts to get an integrated, single view of every customer
interaction and can use that to influence marketing decisions in
From a digital perspective this data allows us to deliver tailored
digital communications, to the right person, at the right time,
with the right message. Which brings me on to my second
Messages tailored to you
The larger, more advanced companies are already doing this, but it
will become standard and more advanced, as data starts to drive the
digital communications messages you receive. The ads you see
will be personalised not just to you as a cookie profile, but to
you as an individual. Not just via assumptions based on your
browsing history, but based on specific on site and off site
actions which tell the company exactly what will interest you.
This will also then be overlaid with data on how you have
previously interacted with them as a brand meaning you get the
right message, at the right time, in the right place, completely
tailored to you.
And this is not just about advertising on other peoples websites.
The same rules apply for your own properties. Personalising
the whole website experience based on what you know about a user
and their previous interactions with you as a brand and what they
want from you as a customer. This again is something which is
currently done by the more advanced companies on the web, but will
start to become a standard and more importantly will be expected by
This isn't the Minority Report
Start having conversations about personalisation and the
inevitable comparisons get brought up with the Minority Report and
privacy concerns start to be raised. The difference between
where we are heading and what you see depicted by Hollywood's
favourite midget Tom Cruise is permission. All of the above
will be driven by permission settings, either at a browser or
website level, which will dictate how far these technologies can
Users will demand, and will therefore get, the capability to say
exactly what can and cannot be used to tailor the messages they
see. Developments are needed into where these permissions lie
and how they are accessed but they will need to be in place to give
the user the control they will demand.
Its not sexy, but it drives results
So it may not be the sexy topics of mobile (device will become
irrelevant but that's one for another post), html 5 or rich media
which will drive the future of digital but it is the availability
of data and the opportunity to use it in real time to influence
decisions which will mean the results driven through digital
marketing continue to build and sustain businesses.
And it is the companies who know how to gather, interpret, and
make sense of the data which will thrive in the digital world of
Rob Weatherhead is Head of Digital for MediaCom and a veteran of
the digital industry in the UK. He has his own blog at http://www.robweatherhead.co.uk and
can also be found ranting on twitter at @robweatherhead