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Why should the consumer value exchange should lie at the heart of effective monitoring?

28th Jul 2015
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We are being watched. Throughout our day-to-day lives we are being monitored, and never more so than when out shopping. We’re not quite in the land of Orson Welles or Minority Report, but that’s only because we choose for it not to be. 
Advertising ceased to be a broadcast medium many years ago. The days of speaking to half of the country, gathered around the latest disaster to befall those occupying Weatherfield, are largely in the past. Media fragmentation has been a buzz phrase in the industry since I was a university, and that is much longer ago than I care to admit in public. 
So the race to the bottom began and along came CRM. We are rapidly approaching a time when we will be marketed to on a one-to-one basis, and that comes with a cost. Advertising a product to the individual is vastly more expensive than firing a TV advert at 30million people. For one thing you need to know the consumer you’re talking to. As marketing professionals today we want to know what makes people tick, what they’re interested in and, most importantly, what will make them buy the brand we’re being paid to sell. 
Retail marketing is no different. To understand the individual is to talk to them on a one-to-one basis about products and services that are relevant to them.  That kind of conversation is likely to have a greater impact, but gathering the relevant information to do this can be deemed intrusive.
As you wander around your local shops your smartphone activity is being logged, your path is being recorded and even your reaction to pieces of point-of-sale, captured. Whether it’s through audience monitoring, facial recognition software, geo-fenced Wi-Fi, beacons and many other pieces of technology, brands are trying to maximise innovative developments to get closer to what is going on in the mind of the consumer. 
As a society are we happy with this? Stories of personal information, bank accounts and mother’s maiden names being left on trains, hacked or leaked to some rogue state are frequently reported in the media. We are even told to shred our receipts in case someone rummages through our bins to uncover a penchant for an M&S dine in for two, once in a while. Unsurprisingly, this has left us sceptical about handing over our precious data. 
But it’s not just about the need for data, we want customers to engage, have fun with the activity and enjoy the brand experience. There is a symbiotic balance of audience interaction and data, where customers will choose to interact, and even share their information with a brand or retailer if they feel it is worth their time. This can be referred to as the consumer value exchange. When planning a new campaign, brands must ask whether the activity offers enough value to the customer for them to want to participate. If the answer is yes, then the campaign will be a success, if it’s a no and the results will be disappointing and a re-think required. 
A recent example of this being done wonderfully well, is Battersea Dogs Home and their campaign at Stratford Westfield. Customers were handed a leaflet containing an RFID tag and some information about the charity. Around the venue all digital screens were rigged to recognise the tags and a dog appeared on screen, who followed shoppers as they walked around the venue; when they stopped, he stopped, when they walked off, so did he. It may have been a PR stunt, but the delight on customer’s faces was clear to see. Yes, they were being monitored, but they were happy with this as it added value to their experience. 
Coffee shop, Harris + Hoole is another example of how to get the balance right, with their app. As you walk in their store you check in. The staff know who you are and can greet you by name. They know your regular drink, and how you like it. This is all valuable; it saves you time and, at least on the surface, makes the whole experience a more personal one. I’m sure they could have taken it further and recognised people via facial recognition, or even just by the app itself, but have decided that the customer should freely volunteer their presence. 
Clearly we could achieve the Minority Report moment we all fear; “Hello Mr Jones, we know you would like product X”, but what is also apparent is that society is just not ready for it. Nevertheless that shouldn’t stop our efforts to make advertising more relevant; keep the consumer value exchange at the core of a campaign and both brand and customer will be rewarded.
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