2016 Predictions for Contextual Marketing
As 2015 fades and resolutions fall by the wayside (pizza is just too good), let’s take a moment to look at 2016 and the future of marketing. From Hubspot to Forrester Research to a multitude of industry publications, experts have been talking about contextual marketing for years. Now, its time has come. Here are three predictions email marketers can look forward to in the new and exciting Age of Context.
1. Email Marketers Will Take a Lesson From Einstein
Context will focus more on opportunities with time and space. As data becomes more readily available, marketers will redefine their understanding of a “complete” customer profile. Lists will no longer simply consist of first name, last name, and email address, but will incorporate real-time geolocation, recent inbox activity and cross-channel information.
Imagine a customer who calls San Francisco home. This week, they happen to be on vacation in Miami. Do you really want to send them an invitation to a work-related webinar? Is this a good time to be pushing your latest line of winter coats? Probably not. Email marketers will use context like timing and geographic information to make better decisions and engage subscribers with the right message at the right time.
2. Preference Centers Will be Automated
For those new to “email speak”, preference centers are landing pages that allow subscribers to choose which publications they would like to receive and how often they would like to receive them. For example, news website Politico allows members to subscribe to various “Tipsheets” covering more than 30 topics.
Today, most preference centers are manual — both for the initial sign-up and any subsequent changes. Unfortunately, some users overestimate their capacity or interest when signing up for email, leading to a flood of messages that can ultimately result in burnout. Rather than going back to the preference center to update their subscription settings, many users simply unsubscribe.
As contextual marketing becomes more prevalent, expect preference centers to become more automated. After opting in, decisions about when and how frequently messages should appear will be made for a user based on read rates, click through rates and other measures of interaction. Suggestions will be sent to subscribers to prevent over-mailing and demonstrate one-to-one care.
3. We Will Move Out of the Uncanny Valley
In robotics, there is a concept called the “uncanny valley.” As robotics designers began constructing humanoid robots, they noticed that when robots looked like piles of metal, people were comfortable with them. However, as robots’ appearance became more lifelike, people started disliking the design.
At a certain point, something in our psychology seems to say, “This just isn’t right.” That trepidation came to be known as the uncanny valley — a steep drop-off in affinity for robots as they start to look more like humans. Interestingly enough, when robots perfectly mirror human appearance and mannerisms, affinity returns.
Modern marketing has some of the same characteristics. The more companies know about us — particularly information we didn’t explicitly give them — the more weirded out we become. However, omnichannel marketing is becoming more common and data proliferation is much better understood by consumers today than it was even five years ago. Now, receiving a push notification that umbrellas are on sale just as it starts to rain isn’t as shocking or off-putting as it once might have been.
Nevertheless, companies must still commit to security, privacy, transparency and opt-in only programs to preserve consumer trust. Eventually, customers won’t know why they are receiving a message, but it will be so useful in that moment they won’t really care.