Contextual computing needs a personality if it is going to be really effective for marketers.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents huge opportunities for business and it is common to find more and more people thinking of ways to tap into it when developing their digital marketing strategies. Contextual computing is one example of AI that is a common theme that seems to be appearing more and more in these discussions.
Contextual computing has been described as the awareness of an application of the environment of a user and of the user’s usual actions. Marketers are constantly looking for ways to provide context to their messages and with the growth of the Smartphone this has provided more opportunities to deliver solutions driven largely by Location Based Services (LBS).
While the opportunities sound exciting, the challenge will be to deliver contextual marketing solutions that actually provide value to the consumer, if not it becomes more than another one of the many marketing message that are they are exposed to everyday, it becomes creepy.
The point to note above, contextual computing has an awareness of the user’s usual actions. So Geo-Fencing and Geo-Conquesting alone do not qualify as being contextual if all it is using is the user’s location data.
Facebook recently moved into the world on contextual computing by adding local weather forecast to Facebook Events. When creating an event the weather forecast for that day is provided, helping you avoid a rained out parade with no effort required. While this is not going to excite any marketers it indicates that context aware features are a focus for Facebook so you could expect more solutions in the near future.
Google’s contextual computing service Google Now can be used to sort of manage some of the day to day activities of your life. It will tell you the weather, your appointments for the day and the traffic on your usual route you take to get to work. You would expect marketing solution to support this service would become available in the near future.
When I was young I use to think my Dad was a contextual computer (not that I knew what that was at the time), he could predict the exact time any of his children needed to go to the toilet during any car trip we made and he proudly boasted that he knew the location of all the public toilets within Australia. With this data he could calculate the most appropriate route to take so that we were never far from a toilet when nature called, or so he claimed.
These are all great examples of the move to provide relevancy to the consumer, my problem is that the solutions seem to lack personality, except for my Dad of course. So why do I think that this is a problem for marketers?
If over time a program that I am running is going to proactively provide recommendations to improve my life I really hope that it understands that I am not always wanting the same and my decisions will usually be driven by emotions more so than relevancy. The challenge of delivering an effective marketing message from solutions driven by contextual computing is that there needs to be some personality included, it will be more powerful if a consumers can create a human connection to the recommendation.
Collaborative filtering, which has been used for many years by ecommerce sites to provide similar recommendations have started to connect these recommendations to a customer’s social network in some instances, instead of just recommending other purchases it provides details of the people in your network who have made the recommended purchased. In my view that human connection is starting to move this from being just a recommendation by a computer to something that feels more real and relevant.
So in moving forward in delivering marketing solutions from contextual computing, if context and relevancy can be delivered in the marketing message and a consumers can understand why the connection is being made then I think that there will be some amazing opportunities available to marketers, otherwise it just runs the risk of just becoming one more piece of information.