Chicago’s venerable Merchandise Mart, once the largest building in the world, is now at the leading edge of what I call the “Internet Convergence of Things;” it will serve as a good metaphor for this column where we see the joining of old and new.
Convergence is not located where you might imagine — in the tech hubs of Silicon Valley, Boston, or New York City — rather, in the big-shouldered magic kingdom where brands, advertising, and technology converge, and in the simplest form where content meets data.
At Efectyv Digital, we’ve done a fair amount of research about the convergence of new technologies in Convergence Analytics and I was asked to lead a discussion and present our findings to a combined group of agency executives and one of their big brand clients — whom they’ve represented since the earliest days of the Mart — to hear our vision for the future of the digital convergence, where a users’ “state” is meant to transcend and represent environments consisting of device, time, and place as the user moves about.
We can think of this state as context for our content marketing. This state may or may not be real-time, omni channel, mobile, and social or web, but rather is a convergence of all of these, and is organized around a clear objective or purpose. Of course it has to be measureable and thus optimizeable. I’ve written about this in “Marketing’s New Rules.”
I was taken to the corner conference room after a brief tour of the block-long agency designed by some famous Chicago architect, exposing color-coded tubes, blue-tinted glass, and steel beams dividing space with the view just outside the window of the iconoclastic gothic Tribune building, Chicago skyline, and lake. It was a physical convergence of old and new.
There were about 20 people gathered in the room, some from the consumer packaged goods [CPG] brand headquarters 100 miles away, and others from the agency. And like the building design, their roles converged — art and creative directors who measured and data base analysts who could write. Stan, one of the top creative directors, uses Omniture to test and optimize his team’s digital creative and share with the brand on a regular basis, while Karen, once a response marketer on the client side, now writes killer copy for the brand and still flies the BI application.
They gathered there to see my presentation and have a discussion about the utilization of transformative and converging technologies to help their CPG brands create more engagement, and how this engagement can help drive both in-store purchase and greater lifetime value [LTV], and which technologies and applications to use and to consider.
Why now? Over the last year, this brand had cracked the code on their customer loyalty base by matching opt-in customer ID, and profile information, with purchase data and was able to calculate the LTV of a cohort, (age, weight, gender) by segment.
They segmented their customer profile and digital behavior — mobile and web with social sharing, and their in-store behavior (duration, time, and location) with purchase history. Their goal was to both grow the customer base and purchase frequency, to understand the most valuable segments, and to understand online and offline behaviors measured by purchase history.
After this explanation, the conversation got interesting. They had known it was right time to optimize since a benchmark was established. To achieve that, the agency and brand wanted to create a way for the customer to engage more with the product during the in-store experience, and were experimenting with Augmented Reality [AR].
As marketers, they wanted to understand their most valuable customers and how they shopped. AR enables a kind of real-world tracking of humans, what they see and where they walk hyper-locally (within a foot). It can show us how they engage and help us to understand intent. While in its infancy, a good AR app can recognize objects, capture color, motion, angle, and sound and overlay or augment the reality of many things. The change in any of these dimensions can signal more or less engagement, or in other words, intent. I’ve written about this subject in “Augmented Reality Meets Artificial Intelligence.” The AR app functions like a page tag for the real world.
This is their convergence concept.
Remember, this is all opt-in, so we don’t have to deal with privacy issues and the mobile device (phone, Glass, or other wearable) is used for both GPS tracking and radio frequency [RF] in-store tracking, while the camera captures AR images. Why does the user opt in to something so personal? For this product, the brand promise is health and weight loss and the brand app allowed the user to track calories and activities (phone signals based on movement), log weight loss, and to share the success with their social network. In this case the phone acts like a Fitbit or other wearable device recording data.
The retailer’s application mashes up the user purchase history with other interesting bits of data, including real-world and in-store behavioral data, AR engagement data, and offers discounts and premiums for loyalty at checkout. The brand uses this information, with their opt-in profile data about the user, to trigger content marketing actions based on user preferences and attitudes to keep the user with the brand over time.
Additionally, they are exploring merging econometric data, like local weather conditions, mapped to user locations and actions, creating the fullest picture of the user for brand targeting, which can all be personalized in real-time campaigns for the stateless environment. As we collect more data in the future, we will be able to extrapolate large volumes of information from mobile and AR use and combine it with profile and purchase history. This is transformative.
The result: this brand is experiencing much longer app engagement with higher purchase conversions in the 40 test stores. It is being repeated all over the country, with equally stunning conversion results by other brands and agencies.
As wearable technology goes mainstream, and as your car and home report on your behavior, the lines between analog and digital worlds blur, and we now have analytics for the real world, merging stateless Meta data and content marketing into the Internet Convergence of Things. The only thing holding us back is the skill set of our converged workforce.
Seems like the old Merchandise Mart is still merchandising, but now its occupants are using a brawny form of 21st-century technology to get the heavy lifting done.