Mark Bridge writes:
Advertising is already personal. Browse online for certain products and services – perhaps a new camera, a car hire deal or a pair of jeans – and you’ll see the same items advertised when you visit other web sites. Cookie-powered ads may not be sophisticated but they’re everywhere.
Then there are the location-based ads offered by a number of companies. These can take advantage of information provided by mobile networks, enabling advertisers to target consumers with text, MMS or online advertisements depending on where they’re shopping.
Marketing technology company Pontis, based in the high-tech industrial zone of Ra'anana in central Israel, has a much more focussed perspective. It talks about a segment-of-one marketing approach… and it’s just started working with O2 in the UK.
The claim is perfectly straightforward: every single customer can receive an offer that’s specifically targeted to the way they use their mobile phone. Just as importantly, customers won’t be bothered by deals that aren’t relevant or could even discourage future usage.
From new connections to top-ups and retention activity, everyone can automatically be sent a promotion or other communication that’s designed specifically to suit their needs.
I spoke to Efrat Nakibly, Marketing Manager at Pontis, and asked her why Pontis had chosen to specialise in working with mobile phone and television service providers.
“There is a combination of a large amount of subscribers that need to be addressed, a large variety of marketing options and a huge difference between what I need now and what you may need at the same time”, she explained.
For example, a mobile operator that wants to promote data services would traditionally segment its subscriber base by targeting customers who weren’t new, who had smartphones, generated a medium amount of revenue and didn’t use mobile data much.
However, this might not be appropriate for a specific customer whose spending had dropped over recent months, who had contacted customer services recently about his tariff, who’d reduced his data usage and who had just travelled abroad.
Although the segment-of-one process involves a large amount of information and hundreds upon hundreds of different options, Efrat said it wasn’t difficult for network operators to implement.
“This is one of the strengths of our technology and system. We have an integration layer which is very flexible and intelligent; we can be live within four months or so. It doesn’t take a lot of resources, definitely not from the customer’s side.”
That’s good news for the service providers… but what about their customers? I wondered whether it might feel a little intrusive to receive communications that were so obviously tailored to suit your needs – and perhaps also obviously based on your previous behaviour.
“On the contrary”, said Efrat, “instead of getting messages which are spam and irrelevant, they’re getting things that are exactly what they want. Subscribers that are addressed by Pontis have 15% higher NPS [Net Promoter Score; a measure of customer loyalty], which is quite impressive.”
So – what’s next?
Much more of the same, Efrat explained. Not only is there much more personalisation available to service providers – the average Pontis-generated mobile subscriber profile contains around 300 separate data points for each user – but there’s also the potential of sharing data. Mobile operators could (with a customer’s permission) disclose detailed subscriber information to third parties, giving them an ability not just to understand what a consumer likes but also what they’re likely to do.
Targeted ads aren’t new. Market segmentation isn’t new. But treating every customer as a segment of one – as an individual – appears to promise many benefits for consumers and network operators alike.
The film Minority Report depicted a sci-fi future where electronic posters would call out to people as they walked past. Reality, according to Pontis, is rather more subtle.