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How Cloud Computing Is Accelerating Context-Aware Coupons, Offers and Promotions

Retailers and marketers often face the challenge of getting coupons, offers and promotions delivered at the perfect time and in the right context to their customers.

The rapid advances in cyber foragingcontextual computing and cloud computing platforms are succeeding at revolutionizing this aspect of the retail shopping experience.  Context-aware advertising platforms and strategies can also provide precise audience and segment-based messaging directly to customers while they are in the store or retail outlet.

What makes context-aware advertising so unique and well adapted to the cloud is the real-time data integration and contextual intelligence they use for tailoring and transmitting offers to customers.  When a customer opts in to retailer’s contextually-based advertising system, they are periodically sent alerts, coupons, and offers on products of interest once they are in or near the store.  Real-time offer engines chose which alerts, coupons or offers to send, when, and in which context.  Cloud-based analytics and predictive modeling applications will be used for further fine-tuning of alerts, coupons and offers as well.  The ROI of each campaign, even to a very specific audience, will be measurable.  Companies investing in cloud-based contextual advertising systems include Apple, Google, Greystripe, Jumptap, Microsoft, Millennial Media, Velti and Yahoo.

Exploring the Framework of Me Marketing and Context-Aware Offers

A few years ago, a student in one of my MBA courses in international marketing did their dissertation on cyber foraging and contextual mobile applications’ potential use for streamlining business travel throughout Europe.  As a network engineer for Cisco at the time, he viewed the world very systemically; instead of getting frustrated with long waits he would dissect the problem and look at the challenges from a system-centric view.  The result was a great dissertation on cyber foraging and the potential use of Near Field Communications (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as sensors to define contextual location and make business travel easier.  One of the greatest benefits of teaching, even part-time, is the opportunity to learn so much from students.

I’ve been following this area since, and when Gartner published Me Marketing: Get Ready for the Promise of Real-Time, Context-Aware Offers in Consumer Goods this month I immediately read it.  Gartner is defining Me Marketing as real-time, context-aware offers in grocery stores. Given the abundance of data on transactions that occur in grocery stores, Gartner is predicting this will be the most popular and fastest-growing area of context-aware offers.  The formula for Me Marketing is shown below:

The four steps of the Me Marketing formula are briefly described as follows:

Me marketing framework for contextual coupons

 

  • Consumer Insight and Permission – The first step of the framework and the most difficult from a change management standpoint, this requires customers to opt in to receiving alerts, coupons, offers and promotions.  The best retailers also have invested heavily in security and authentication technologies here too.
  • Delivery Mechanism and In-the-Moment Context – The real-time offer engine is used to determining which coupons, offers and promotions are best suited for a specific customer based on their shopping patterns, preferences and locations.
  • Select Best Offer – Next, the real-time offer engine next defines a very specific product or service offer based on location, previous purchase history, social media analysis, predictive and behavioral analysis, and previous learned patterns of purchasing.
  • Redemption – The purchase of the item offered.  Initial pilots have shown that less frequent yet highly relevant, targeted offers have a higher redemption rate.  It is encouraging to see that early tests of these systems show that spamming customers leads to immediate opt-outs and in some cases shopping competitors.

A Short Overview of Contextual Advertising and the Cloud

Cloud-based systems and applications are necessary for retailers to gain the full value that contextual advertising can provide.  This includes the social context, with specific focus on aggregation and analysis of Social CRM, CRM, and social media content, in addition to behavioral analytics and sentiment analysis.  It also includes the previous browsing, purchasing, returns and prices paid by product for each customer.  Cloud-based integration architectures are necessary for making contextual advertising a reality in several hundred or even thousands of retail stores at the same time.

Geographical data and analysis is also essential.  RFID has often been included in cyber foraging and contextual advertising pilots, in addition to NFC.  As Global Positioning System (GPS) chip sets have dropped in price and become more accurate, companies including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are basing their contextual advertising platforms on them.  Finally the activity or task also needs to have a contextual definition.

Combining all three of these elements gives the context of the customer in the retail store.  The figure below is from Three-Dimensional Context-Aware Tailoring of Information.  This study also took into account how personas are used by companies building cloud-based contextual advertising systems.  The taxonomies shown in the figure are used for building personas of customers.

context aware technology

There are many pilot projects and enterprise-wide system tests going on right now in the area of cloud-based contextual advertising.  One of the more interesting is an application suite created entirely on Google App Engine, Android, and Cloud Services.  The pilot is explained in the study Exploring Solutions for Mobile Companionship: A Design Research Approach to Context-Aware Management.  The following figure shows a diagram of the suite.  This pilot uses Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) which is part of the Android API to link the Google App Engine server and Android client.  Google will most likely add more depth of support for C2DM as it plays a critical role in contextual system development.

context aware Google Ad Platform

Benefits of a Cloud-based Contextual Advertising Platform

For the customer, cloud-based advertising systems over time will learn their preferences and eventually impact the demand planning and forecasting systems of retailers.  This translates into the customer-centric benefits of products being out of stock less.  In addition, customers will receive more relevant offers.  The entire shopping experience will be more pleasant with expectations being met more often.

For the retailer, better management of product categories and more effective gross margin growth will be possible. Having real-time analytics of each coupon, offer and promotion will also give them immediate insights into which of their selling strategies are working or not.

For the manufacturer, the opportunity to finally understand how customers respond at the store level to promotions, programs including the results of co-op funds investment and pricing strategies will be known.  The manufacturers who partner with retailers using these systems will also have the chance at attaining greater product differentiation as their coupons, offers and promotions will only go to the most relevant customers.

References:

Me Marketing: Get Ready for the Promise of Real-Time, Context-Aware Offers in Consumer Goods Published: 24 December 2012 Analyst(s): Don Scheibenreif, Dale Hagemeyer

Tor-Morten Grønli, Ghinea, G., & Bygstad, B. (2013). Exploring Solutions for Mobile Companionship: A Design Research Approach to Context-Aware Management. International Journal of Information Management, 33(1), 227. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0268401212001259

Tor-Morten Grønli, & Ghinea, G. (2010). Three-Dimensional Context-Aware Tailoring of Information. Online Information Review, 34(6), 892-906. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1896452

How Google is Driving Mobile Video Market Growth

Google’s top advertising customers are pushing for convergence of mobile and video quickly, which is turning into a strong catalyst of growth of the global mobile video market.  With their largest advertising customers wanting greater flexibility in bringing video to mobile devices, Google will make significant strides this year to make that happen.

During their latest earnings call, Google execs said that Android, Chrome and YouTube are the highest priority areas of their business. I’ve been following the last year of earnings calls closely, and it’s clear that Google’s largest advertising customers are pushing the company to bring video to mobile at a level of performance and usability not accomplished yet.  The Q2, 2012 earnings call transcript makes this point clear which can be accessed here Google’s Management Discusses Q2 2012 Results – Earnings Call Transcript.

 Mobile and Video: Transforming Convergence Into Cash

Over the last year, Google executives have mentioned the growth of YouTube and its quick evolution from a content management system to a profitable advertising platform.   During the Q1, 2012 earnings call held on April 12, 2012 the following points were made:

  • Google reported they had over 800 million monthly users uploading over an hour of video per second
  • U.K. mobile operator O2 used YouTube as the foundation of a brand launch that year with support for 100 new original channels completed and launched
  • Global product launch plans from GM, Toyota and Unilever and several other large advertising accounts are also underway

During the Q2, 2012 earnings call, Nikesh Arora, Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer started his comments regarding the YouTube business with the statement “I think in 2007 it was when newspapers frequently said YouTube is groping for an effective business model. I think we can declare we found our model.” Immediately after making this statement, Mr. Arora mentioned that yearly account signups have doubled year-over-year and users are uploading over 72 hours of video every minute.  He also mentioned that  “thousands of partners are making six figures and we’re proud to work with major record labels in Hollywood studios on this platform.”

The call continued with the points made of Danish advertisers shifting their television advertising dollars to YouTube and other Google branding solutions.  Additional companies mentioned on the call using YouTube-based advertising include Denon, Shire, and Intel.  Clearly these companies have major product introductions coming up and see mobile video as perfect for reaching more potential customers than ever before.

Google’s Challenge: Keep Content Quality and User Experience Constantly Improving

If Google is going to attain the full revenue potential of YouTube as an advertising platform, they’ll need to focus on the following factors:

  • Create Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs) and easy-to-use programming tools for quickly creating mobile-optimized sites.  As Gartner studies have shown, video on telephones is most often used as a time-filler, with a median length of 2 minutes, 46 seconds.
  • YouTube will need to support more optimized mobile-based video browsers that can support contextual search.  This will be a core requirement for the enterprise, specifically in the areas of mobile customer care, mobile commerce and mobile health.
  • More extensive analytics in YouTube than are available today, specifically tying into to major marketing strategies including product introductions.  It is becoming common knowledge that videos improve viewer engagement and prospects attribute a more positive shopping experience when they are used.  Luxury brands are investing heavily in this technology including BMW, Burberry, Channel, Louis Vuitton and many others.
  • A Google/Ipsos OTX MediaCT smartphone users study completed in April, 2011 shows that 77% of smartphone users said that their most visited site was a mobile search engine.

Mobile Video: The Market YouTube Built

The size of the worldwide mobile video market was comprised of 429 million mobile video users in 2011, projected to grow exponentially to 2.4 billion users by 2016.  Smartphones and tablet sales will contribute 440 million new mobile video users during the forecast period.  These market estimates are from the recently published Gartner report, Market Trends: Worldwide, the State of Mobile Video, 2012.

Additional take-aways from this report include the following:

  • Allot Communication’s reports that mobile streaming grew 93% in the first half of 2011; Allot also reports that the usage of YouTube’s mobile channel grew by 152% and YouTube generated 22% of all mobile video traffic in the first half of 2011.  YouTube reports getting 400 million video views a month globally.
  • Gartner reports from a survey completed in the 4th quarter of 2010 that 32% of mobile enterprise users watch short videos from YouTube and other sites optimized for video streaming.
  • The fastest growth for mobile video will be in Latin America as smartphone adoption continues to accelerate, replacing traditional cell phones in these markets.  Asia/Pacific will have the highest number of mobile video users at 541 million by 2016.  Both of these markets will benefit from low-cost smartphones being produced by contract manufacturers who are becoming the dominant production strategy of brand leaders globally. The following graphic shows the Mobile Video User Forecast by Region, Worldwide, 2008 – 2016.

  • By 2016, close to 60% of professionally developed mobile video content will be delivered via mobile-optimized websites that also have enhanced contextual search functionality included in the content management systems.
  • Mobile customer care, mobile commerce and mobile health will be the three primary industry drivers in the near-term of mobile video market, emerging as growth catalysts of this emerging market.
  • Cisco’s Visual Networking Index study reports that last year, mobile video accounted for 56% of all mobile data traffic.
  • 3G/4G connections are emerging as a powerful catalyst of mobile video growth.  Gartner is forecasting that the worldwide share of mobile video connections on 3G/4G will increase from 18% in 2011 to 43% in 2015.  In more established markets incouding North America and Western Europe, the percentage of 3G/4G connections is expected to be as high as 80% and 96% respectively.
  • Gartner projects that 70% of mobile video users will use only Wi-Fi to view mobile video, with the remainder of the market relying on a mix of cellular and Wi-Fi networks to gain access and also upload content.   The following figure shows the Mobile Video User Forecast by Network Type, Worldwide, 2008 – 2016.

Source: Market Trends: Worldwide, the State of Mobile Video, 2012. Gartner Group. Published: 10 February 2012 ID:G00223693 Author: Shalini Verma.   Link: http://www.gartner.com/id=1920315

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