As the data crunching and behavioral analysis technology behind consumer actions online improves, targeted messages are becoming even more pinpointed. Indoor GPS beacon technology has the potential to track consumers down to the aisle they are standing in, providing discounts and suggestions based on both paid ads and assumptions based on previous purchases by the consumer. The ads that consumers see on their computers or mobile devices are not the same ones their neighbors may see on the exact same page, and marketers are becomingly increasingly savvy when it comes to customized ad delivery.
It stands to reason that all of this personalization gives marketers an advantage, while eliminating messages that will fall on deaf ears. The benefits to consumers are also there because, theoretically, they are receiving exactly what they were probably looking for anyway – but without having to search for long. We’ve become a society that cuts through the excess to get right to the point. It’s inbound marketing, instead of outbound blanketing. It’s location-based suggestions for restaurants, instead of citywide guides, direct answers to contact information questions through a quick online search instead of turning the pages of a phone book.
With so much specificity though, I wonder what we might be missing. People think they know exactly what they are looking for and marketers think they can predict what those people are looking for – but are we forcing tunnel-vision upon ourselves in the process? These concerns become especially amplified when you consider the small business community that often lacks the same technology resources as bigger corporations, but may have the same high-quality offerings. If these small businesses are not at the ready of the consumers who may be looking for exactly what they offer, will they miss out?
Part of what spurs change, in individuals and in society as a whole, is when people step outside their comfort zones to try something different. It could be different from their past behavior, or simply something they may have never sought out on their own. The innovation is what eventually brings about one product that replaces another, or starts a trend that ends up catching on with a mass audience. When we give consumers just the things they are looking for anyway, doesn’t that actually hurt us long-term?
I’m not sure what the solution is, of course, and there does seem to be a demand for specificity. How we handle it moving forward – as marketers, as business owners, as consumers – will make a difference in the overall health of the business community, and its innovation too.
Do you think the shift toward specificity is helpful, or harmful, long term?
Smaller Photo via Flickr/Creative Commons:
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.