Technology

7 Truths for Digital Context

7 Truths for Digital Context
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Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with tools that share data about them in order to automate an experience. Think of the data shared between Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Nest to allow a consumer to turn up the heat by simply speaking a voice command. That kind of sharing is permitted by consumers because they value the ability of data sharing to close the gap between thought and action.

These context-comfortable consumers also value the benefits they get from connected devices. They love the way that Amazon’s Echo, Apple TV and other very smart tools anticipate their needs. They share personal data willingly because they believe their lives will be better if they give permission to brands they trust.  Approximately 40 percent of consumers today are either high comfort or comfort consumers -- and those numbers are growing. Interestingly, these consumers are not necessarily early adopters. Though they are more likely to be younger, Hispanic and African-American men, they don’t fit one demographic.

And here’s the rub. While you’re busy working on your omni-channel strategy, you should know that consumers are moving on to the next thing -- their own personal data ecosphere. The shift in consumer attitudes toward sharing data with connected devices is the most important shift in digital consumption since the advent of mobility. It is a big deal for marketers and innovators to be thinking about. Your brand will need to fit into a new smart world where app design is secondary to data experience design. Amazon has data. Fitbit has data. Your brand better have some data it can share with consumers too. That’s how you play in a world of context.

Related: 'Big Data' Is No Longer Enough: It's Now All About 'Fast Data'

Here are seven truths of digital context that you should be paying attention to.

1. A context-aware speaker is not a speaker.

The reason consumers will buy a context-aware device like Echo is because of its ability to do far more than serve up songs. The same will be true for your company if you are context-aware. The original job your brand was hired to do is an entry point. They expect you will do so much more now, because you have the data.

2. Data design replaces app design.

Sure, there will still be apps, just like there are still websites (and pay phones in airports). But increasingly, the consumer will come to expect tools that know them and share data with other tools to produce an anticipatory environment.   

3. Get permission for more data types.

You can only do more for your consumer if you have more types of data. Location, biometric, brand, environmental control and queue data -- digital context is made smarter because of data types. The more you have, the better your tool.

Related: Why Entrepreneurs Should Look Beyond Big Data

4. Context-aware channels become queues.

Consumers love to start things and then put them on hold. They multitask and love lots of choices. To manage that, you need a queue, and you need to learn how to manage things that are in the queue. All blockbuster tools have this knowledge. You do not want your brand kicked out of the consumer’s queues. 

5. Your value proposition should be tied to a mode.

When wearables and IoT-enabled products start coordinating data functions, the consumer will come to expect that the tools can anticipate the mode he or she is in. One of the best examples of mode design is running mode on Spotify. Try it. You’ll see what I mean.

6. Curation and anticipation are linked.

Smart tools try to anticipate what the consumer wants based on contextual cues. The biggest mistake Echo, Fitbit, Facebook, Apple or your brand could make is to try to use their smarts to anticipate exactly what you want. Consumers want you to present a set of options based on their context, but not try to give them exactly what you think they want.  

Related: Traditional Search is Dying as Sales Organizations Make Way for 'Context'

7. Context-aware brands focus on positive engagement.

Tools designed to create a smart home, car, store, city or travel experience that don’t understand principles of positive psychology and engagement will be rejected. You need to stop focusing on loyalty and start understanding positive engagement because consumer expectations for context go way beyond delivering the functional benefits and rewards you that your current business model is based on.

Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook understand where digital context is headed. They are going to try to own the home environment. As a consumer, I wish them the best success! I look forward to capabilities they and others will create. As a marketer, I worry for most brands. I don’t think most companies understand just how big of a shift they need to make in order to play in the next marketplace. Just as mobility caught companies off guard, digital context catching companies by surprise.