The Three Ages Of Targeting (On Mobile And Elsewhere)

At Swrve we recently announced the general availability of our Predictive Suite, which enables our customers to understand which of their own mobile users are more or less likely to take certain key actions (purchasing, churning etc) in the near future.

That ability ties in closely with our last blog post, in which we discussed the various forms that personalization can take - personalization of course implying that some form of target groups are subject to certain changes in experience. In the not too distant future, mobile apps will be adapting in real-time, based on the actions that the individual user in question is likely to take in the near future.

That sounds complicated - but the beauty is that after a certain amount of ‘human input’ both from the Swrve user and our Customer Success team, it will happen almost automatically. And that fact reminds us that we are entering, or about to enter (ahem) a new age in digital marketing.

From Human To Machine Targeting

Any marketer knows that effective targeting is what separates a good campaign from a counter-productive one. That’s always been the case - since someone had the bright idea of selling ice cream on a hot day. But over the years the ways in which we’ve created target groups have changed. In fact we could broadly categorize them into the ‘three ages’ of marketing.

In the first age, the audience was essentially delivered to us, and we could decide whether to engage or not. That’s the people out and about on a hot day who would attract the attention of an ice cream vendor - but probably make the roast chestnut man stay at home (he's waiting for the audience delivered by a winter's day). More recently, think of the audience ‘delivered’ by a tv broadcast. The football game on Sunday afternoon will attract beer advertising. The soap opera on Tuesday evening might deliver an audience of more interest to washing powder manufacturers.

The second age was more active. And it overlapped, of course, with the first. Think direct marketing, in which lists of theoretically interested individuals are targeted in the mail. It may have been pretty unsophisticated, and the level of granularity probably wasn’t spectacular, but at least the marketing professional was actively creating an audience.

That trend was accelerated by the digital age. All of a sudden we had much, much more data to play with. And marketers were able to build sophisticated audience profiles and target campaigns - first online and via email, today using in-app content and push notifications - all based on a huge array of different data points.

But it was still humans doing the thinking. And while it got easier and easier to generate audiences and actively target campaigns to them (hands up who is having flashbacks to laboriously downloading csv files from databases and uploading them into marketing ‘automation’ platforms here!) we’re still at the stage in which human input and insight is required.

But that age is coming to an end. And in the third age, marketing will become truly automated. As with our Predictive Suite, machine learning and the automated processing of large volumes of data (and the indentification of patterns within it) will create audiences for us, audiences that are based on natural customer groupings and both reflect prior behavior and future propensity.

The end result of this development won’t just be marketing (on mobile and elsewhere) that is more efficient again. It will also enable us to massively increase the number of campaigns we deliver, and deliver them to a much greater number of target groups. It is an important step on the road to true 1-2-1 experience - and where better place for that than on mobile - the most personal channel of all?