“I do not care if you are 25 or 65, if you want to summon a car to go from A to B right now, you are still my target customer.”
Do you know who—and where—your target customer really is, right now?
Chances are good you have no idea.
Once upon a time, marketing was focused solely on demographics—age, gender, income level, ethnicity, geographic location, or a combination of these things. But that was in the era of passive marketing. Think about all those wheelchair and pain-reliever commercials that ran during late-night Matlock and Golden Girls reruns. Billboards for chocolate and soda on the subway platform. You get the picture.
But that model is from the pre-mobile, pre-digital economy. The passive marketing era is dying a slow death, if not over completely. Instead, we’ve moved into an on-demand economy, where people frequently make snap buying decisions in real time. But these aren’t the typical mindless impulse purchases—they’re made in the context of digital information. People choose which restaurant to go to in a specific neighborhood by checking apps on their phones. They play mobile games like Pokemon Go searching for PokeStops around town that often lead them into specific businesses. They use mobile apps for tracking everything from personal finance (like using Mint to track how much they spend on groceries versus dining out every week) to how many calories they’ve burned in the past hour. Many shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores use their phones to get product information and even digital coupons from QR codes displayed on the shelf next to products they might want to buy.
Long story short, effective marketing just isn’t passive anymore. Consumers are taking an active role in every purchasing decision they make, and marketers who don’t understand that are going to miss the boat. Therefore, thinking of your customer in the old way or even by demographics isn’t going to work most of the time. The market is far more complex and niche-driven nowadays.
What often drives purchases in an on-demand economy is something called atriggering event. In a nutshell, a triggering event is something that makes someone want to buy a specific thing, in a specific place, at a specific time. You have a very narrow window to capture this decision—often mere seconds. How do you do it?
Today’s app developers use proprietary algorithms to determine what functions or content users will see when using an app. These algorithms adapt automatically according to the mobile data collected from the apps. This same process can apply to marketers.
Think about how smartphones work. Mobile data, GPS signals, digital calendars/clocks, and even face-recognition technology in apps like Facebook can provide a plethora of contextual information than can trigger certain actions at certain times and in certain locations—regardless of what demographic the smartphone owner is a member of. This is key to understanding or even creating triggering events that consumers will respond to.
Examples of Event-Triggered Marketing Opportunities
Nearby restaurants. Create contextual ad campaigns that promote a specific nearby restaurant at lunch time. Think “It’s 11:55 and you’re craving sushi. Guess what? You’re only 2 blocks from Sushi Naru, a Zagat-rated sushi bar that’s hot on Yelp.” The ad includes a digital 2-for-1 coupon.
Music suggestions while exercising. Somebody turns on their RunKeeper app or the GPS detects that they’re moving along a bike path at cycling speed—those can be triggers showing that the smartphone user is exercising. You can create a contextual ad campaign that is programmed to suggest a workout playlist from a music app when these triggers are met: “Hey, I see you’re working out. Have you downloaded Taylor Swift’s rocking new single yet? Here’s a sample.”
Tying rideshare apps with driving directions (think Mapquest, Google Maps):When someone looks up driving directions on one of the many digital map apps, it’s a perfect time to target them for a ride-share. How about this: “Do you really want to deal with all of that traffic and those tricky on-off ramps yourself? Sit back, relax, and call an Uber.”
These are all common, everyday situations in consumers’ lives that can be monetized if you know how the technology (and the psychology) behind them works. Rethink your marketing strategies away from old-school, passive demographics and towards context-specific, event-triggered campaigns, and you’ll find that you can move the needle a lot faster.