Desperately seeking context

Desperately seeking context

On a particularly chaotic Monday morning on my way to work I got a call from a number that I didn’t recognize. Now the thing with calls from unknown phone numbers is that they are a bit like that delectable blueberry cheesecake you see at the patisserie. You know if you eat it you are going to pack on many more calories than you need in the hopeless battle against the bulge, but if you don’t, you possibly could be missing out on the most delicious cheesecake ever, that you didn’t eat. Succumbing to the temptation as the entrepreneur in me took over my instinct, I picked up with an excited “Hello” to be greeted by a lady with a thick accent, “Good morning, I am calling from Your bank and you are eligible for a pre-approved personal loan”.
There is something decidedly evil about banks that make tele-callers troop in to torment unsuspecting customers with offers for products that they don’t need but I felt a tinge of sympathy for the caller and politely declined. My bank knows a lot about me (where I live, what kind of balances I hold, where I spend my money and the general state of my finances or the lack of it) but to infer that I needed a personal loan when I didn’t was definitely irksome.
A little later in the workday came the urgent reminder SMSes from HouseJoy, Louis Philippe, Lenskart, Van Heusen and a bunch of other brands who I had graced with my patronage and urgently wanted me to avail of fast expiring offers for end of season deals that I would potentially regret not availing. Apparently, I had made the cardinal sin of signing up and providing my mobile number to each of these brands and unwittingly become a sucker for their campaigns. I am sure the overworked marketing departments at these companies were probably chuckling in glee having rolled out yet another exciting campaign to troll unsuspecting consumers and waiting expectantly for the conversion numbers to start trickling in. 
In the ‘good old days’, brands and marketers seeking to understand consumer behavior struggled to capture consumer preferences through focus groups and market sampling surveys but didn't have the means to discover the evolving needs and preferences of consumers. New-gen marketers seem to have it a lot easier with access to consumer profiles, preferences and affinities through a plethora of data from social media, online branded content and activations that seem to yield a wealth of information. Yet brands and marketers continue to be decidedly dumb when rolling out campaigns in the quest for reach, completely ignoring the context of the customer. What is the customer’s context from a preference, interest and propensity perspective? Is this the best moment to get the consumers mindshare and establish recall by enhancing the experience? Is this the best micro-moment to incentivize the consumer with a BTL offer?
Google recently introduced the notion of micro-moments in a consumer’s journey urging marketers and brands to think about being contextually relevant during such micro-moments. However, the importance of context in these micro-moments cannot be undermined as consumers tend to punish brands that yield to the temptation of randomly spraying messaging rather than making it relevant. Our quest for context over content and relevance over repetition leads us to an interesting dimension of consumer experience which requires tracking the consumer’s journey and ensuring that we are present in only the most essential micro moments thereby building trust and affinity.
The ubiquitous mobile phone has it made it much easier to track consumers through their everyday journeys as they trapeze through a multitude of sensors and devices in airports, hotels, malls and other public spaces discreetly signaling their interests and desires. From a data privacy standpoint, as a consumer I have already come to terms with the fact that Google is going to read my mails (albeit automated) to provide me with notifications related to my travel itinerary and track my location to give me interesting insights on places I’ve visited creating a whole new paradigm of privacy. The notion of sharing discrete location data which can be used by marketers to identify my device and create relevant communication in micro-moments seems more acceptable rather than divulging personally identifiable information like my cellphone number or e-mail which can be used to spam me with things I don’t need. Either way the mantle of ensuring this data gleaned from consumer devices is not abused but used conscientiously rests squarely with brands and marketing technology companies who put these tools in their hands.
The quest for context should eventually result in real-time, contextualized personalization leading to better consumer experiences and engagement. So when my bank calls next I hope its not to sell me an irrelevant service they think I 'might' need but possibly sell me foreign exchange and travel insurance before my overseas trip and win my appreciation and loyalty.

(Title image - Created by Blossomstar - Freepik.com)

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