The perpetually connected consumer

Over the next 18 months we are again set to see some significant changes in marketing and how advertisers engage with the consumer. The impact and opportunities wearable technology’s such as Fitbit and Jaw bone present and conversely the potential risks associated with these types of tracking and data collection along with changes to laws around how this data can be used means we are set for a challenging time ahead.

Targeting the right offer, at the right time to the right people is fundamental to marketing. As we move our digital media consumption online it has become easier for marketers to track current and existing behaviour, to build a profile of the consumer and with the use of both data and research model with varying degrees of certainty what triggers and offers will improve the chances of success to that ultimate sale.

But when we move outside of the web browser – outside of our home even things become a little trickier.

For a while now Tesco’s with the help of Amscreen has looked to tackle this challenge in their petrol / convenience stores up and down the country by installing cameras that are focused on customers as they queue. These cameras use facial recognition software to profile people into gender, combining this data with time of day / weather to then server more targeted advertising through the digital displays that are positioned along aisle.

Similar technology is also being used in outdoor digital poster’s to again profile the crowd as they approach or wait in general proximity of the installation – changing the message accordingly.

Where Tesco’s solution differs though is the potential to link your face, directly to your purchase and club card information. Let’s be clear hear they are not doing this today, however technically it is entirely feasible to make this join and subsequently target you in even a more personalised fashion either in the same or other stores around the group.

People Tracking

Moving away now to a more ‘traditional’ method of tracking is iBeacon from Apple.

iBeacon has been around now for a while now, however is still relatively new to the market with a handful of retailers adopting.  Macy’s in NewYork and San Francisco have recently installed iBeacons in conjunction with Shopkick (their application runs on your phone, giving targeting offers depending on where you are in the store) with Apple turning on the tech across their US stores last year.

The technology is a transponder unit, these are placed around the store to then interact with mobile phones / devices using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking it’s movements to within 10cm. This level or accuracy which far exceeds existing technologies such a Wi-Fi and GPS is down to using triangulation to determine the devices location.

And it’s not only the targeting of offers which makes this technology appealing to retailers. If you go into a super market not all the cameras are there for security purposes – a number are there to track shopper behaviour, where you pause and the route you take.

Tracking customers journey through the store as they browse and shop is critical in ensuring store layouts are maximised to increase basket value (how much you and I spend) – this technology complement those more traditional observational techniques.

Holy Grail

We see the continued quest for more accurate and ongoing tracking of users manifest itself in the latest iteration of Apple products, originally with the introduction of the M7 chip in the 5s phone and now with the iWatch.

The introduction of the chip is important as it’s role is specifically designed as a specialist in tracking, incorporating compass, gyroscope, accelerometer along with having low power consumption to allow for use when the phone is ‘sleeping’ this signals Apples acknowledgment location based services and the devices that power them is of significant strategic importance.

The chip knows when you’re walking, running, or even driving and could change the context of the applications. For example, maps changes from driving mode with turn by turn navigation to walking mode with more granular views and information. And remember, the phone is also aware of weather, time travelled (destination) and other factors that could be used for targeting purposes way beyond the simple ‘voucher’ offer as you walk past a store.

As these devices become miniaturised and integrated they will take over the current space occupied by specialist devices such as FitBit and JawBone. Last year Forrester estimated smart glasses, fitness bands and watches, should sell about 10 million units, generating €2 billion.


Key for adoption is both affordability and also social acceptance, Google glass proving this, however I’m sure as the technology becomes less obtrusive and integrated adoption will only increase exponentially like the adoption of the mobile phone.

Not only are the numbers significant, but also the change from consumers being the ‘data subject’ to the ‘data creator’ , revealing granular information about our behaviour and habits. This machine to machine collection differs hugely from the days of form filling and opt in check boxes – consumers had at least ‘some’ visibility of data being collected and it’s subsequent reuse.

With the challenges we see today from what I would class as ‘old data’, as we move to less transparent, higher frequency and granularity these issues are only set to increase.

The cookie conundrum

Over the past 12 months there has been considerable amount of press around cookies and tracking of users with the likes of Microsoft and Mozilla blocking unrelated 3rd parties from tracking users as they browse and tools blocking altogether. 

While there needs to be a move away from the wild west that went before us (which will ultimately benefit the consumer and advertisers alike) some of the current thinking does need to be refined.

We also have to consider that when used correctly cookies can aid with the ‘operational’ side of browsing, making repeat visits to commonly used websites such as banking a far more seamless – so blocking "all" really is not an option. 

And for advertisers the stakes are high with the alternatives to cookies being potentially more intrusive, one such alternative is device fingerprinting. 

Device fingerprinting

To uniquely identify a person 12 points on a finger print are needed – to uniquely identify a device such as your mobile far fewer are required.  Each device has a unique finger print, even same models and manufacturers – web browser, plugins, language settings, IP address of the device when all stitched together can be used by an advertiser to identify you and your device.

And it does not stop there, merging seemingly innocent data sources together can in some cases reveal more then you could imagine. As an example MIT labs were able to reliably identify a user from 1.5 million anonymous cell phone registrations and some twitter data.  Remember, companies such as Apple collect anonymous data for their and other third parties companies use with our consent (each click of those terms and conditions enters our data into that pot) which if used in the wrong way could have dire consequences.

So how could the future look? 

Where ‘big data’ is concerned there are suggestions organisations are the stewards of user data, but are they truly effective at this task?  As an organisation keeping track of both what you are holding, where it was obtained, the usage rights around that data and most importantly when it should be deleted is beyond all but the most advanced companies.

Putting the user back in control

As a user I’m ok with sharing my data for certain uses which are beneficial to me, other times not. The current method of opting in is too simple and does not consider the context in which my data is going to be used now or in the future.

Putting the user back in control of the data may sound daunting, however the alternative of simply blocking everything or having to opt in may quite simply be too basic.

One concept that in the future may hold some promise is the idea of a personal data store. 

Simply put all your data is stored securely in a virtual locker – applications then request access to the data they need, the user at the point of request can either allow or deny access as they deem appropriate and at a later date be able to change.  In a world where transactions are occurring machine to machine, sometimes without our knowledge gaining visibility and clarity can only be a good thing.

Whatever the answer any organisation that manages to earn the trust of it’s users, be clear on what data is being collected, how it’s going to be used, gives easy opt out options and compensation (directly or through some form of value exchange) and is able to leverage data for both it’s own and it’s users advantage will win in the end.


 Law 1: Reduce
The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.

Law 2: Organize
Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.

Law 3: Time
Savings in time feel like simplicity.

Law 4: Learn
Knowledge makes everything simpler.

Law 5: Differences
Simplicity and complexity need each other.

Law 6: Context
What lies in the periphery of simplicity is denitely not peripheral.

Law 7: Emotion
More emotions are better than less.

Law 8: Trust
In simplicity we trust.

Law 9: Failure

Some things can never be made simple.

Law 10: The One
Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.


“Engagement” – are you paying attention?

Microsoft’s new home gaming console – the X-Box One again pushes the boundaries of gaming entertainment combined with the all-important Kinect motion sensor.

Since launch, the Kinect has been hacked to self-drive a mini car to powering a real time light sabre; use cases beyond anything MSFT had imagined when they conceived the device

Now with new enhanced compute power and an upgraded Kinect sensor, what does the future hold beyond realistic engaging content and game play?

The new Kinetic technical specification are impressive – with increased field view, infrared and HD cameras allowing it to build up better 3D images of the room than before, leading to exciting possibilities in both gaming and marketing.

The ability to measure heart rate through the fluctuations in skin tone combined with your pupil size could be used to measure your level of engagement with a game or advert, changing either the difficulty or brand message accordingly.

Multiple people in the room, who is actually paying attention to that advert? 
Body temperatures rising? – How about a quick advert for an ice cold Coke …. along with a family pizza meal deal as there are 4 of you in the room.

Or even worse, working out when you are tired (and more likely to make impulse purchases) to hit you with some brand messages….

Understanding the context of the signals is critical; as certain signals could have dual meaning and if interpreted incorrectly have dire consequences - tears of joy / tears of despair.

Conscious of this along with just the general creep factor around being watched and the actions that this spawns it still remains an exciting opportunity to really get ‘engaged’


Big Data - keeping it real

Just this week we spent a great couple of days in Chicago at the Pass Business Analytics conference, presenting our thoughts and technology around digital attribution. 
In the space of 'Big Data' scale does have its advantages – especially in modelling with the ability to keep those "outliers" in the data set, however there are key principles that still apply when working with 'Big Data' in marketing.
Using the 80/20 rule
20% of the data giving 80% of the value.   
This philosophy I believe should never change, just because the technology allows us sometimes to reverse this rule
Engaging early with the business
Ensuring KPI’s and metrics are agreed and quantified up front – simply thinking you can define these after the event because you are capturing all activity will only lead to complexity, cost and challenges further on.
Causation VS Correlation
They are different.  You must have the context and understanding.
Defining Insights that are actionable
This goes back to my point of early engagement with the business for this to be possible.
Data is after all just data – it is the insights that are derived from this data which is key.
Getting the data in, getting it analysed to make meaningful recommendations in a timely fashion is critical, especially when the window of opportunity is small – we are looking for many incremental improvements, not big bang.