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FEATURE28 November 2012

Digital living

Features

Much has been made of how digital marketing is rapidly increasing its share of marketing budgets, and yet it remains difficult to demonstrate the value of digital relative to more traditional media. For Dave Coplin, Microsoft UK’s chief envisioning officer, this difficulty stems from a lack of appreciation of the multi-platform nature of the internet.

Much has been made of how digital marketing is rapidly increasing its share of marketing budgets, and yet it remains difficult to demonstrate the value of digital relative to more traditional media. For Dave Coplin, Microsoft UK’s chief envisioning officer, this difficulty stems from a lack of appreciation of the multi-platform nature of the internet.

“The web is quietly, but quickly, undergoing a social revolution, blending the analogue and digital worlds to become even more powerful in the way we all live, work and play – it’s more about doing and less about finding,” he says at an Agenda 21 conference in London. “Understanding this change is crucial, not just for the satisfaction and welfare of consumers and customers, but equally for the success and relevance of businesses and brands.” he explains.

Caught in the web

There’s a rich human world out there to explore, built on a backbone of trust and relevancy

Coplin says that technological innovations have had major changes changes, which researchers must consider when formulating online strategies. “It is immersed now in everything we do. We are in a web of things that change the way we think – made up of all these different particles: big data, apps, mobile interactions.

“The task now is to bring information into context – but it’s a huge task. With the right cognitive studies we can know what the net is being used for and identify ways of working with it better so that we are understanding people better and helping to make interactions more pleasant online. There’s a rich human world out there to explore, built on a backbone of trust and relevancy.”

Part of the problem that’s holding the industry back, Coplin says, is a reliance on basic closed questioning techniques and the use of “social graphs” – network maps of people’s online relationships – to represent findings without any context attached to them.

“You can try and put these things into trends or social graphs as much as you want – and to some extent you will indeed identify changes in patterns of behaviour and some anecdotal evidence of the power of recommendation. However, what we need to be thinking more of is the horizon of big data, being able to dig to a much more granular level, one that can build rich sources of information that are reflective of the world we live in and brings into context what we, as people, are trying to do with our 21st-century selves.”

Year of the mobile – again

For me, 2013 really will be the year of the mobile – and I’ve heard that sentence uttered since 1998

At the heart of our increasingly digital lives are the connected devices which produce this stream of rich behavioural data. The era of the desktop computer is on the wane while tablets and smartphone use continues to rise, notes Coplin.

“For me, 2013 really will be the year of the mobile – and I’ve heard that sentence uttered since 1998 – but the dawn of new smartphones or connected devices have fundamentally changed our relationship with technology. Your handset is now a digital equivalent of you. You have this window of exploration open to you wherever you are. The research opportunities are endless, because it’s an enhancement to real world experiences and is transformative – capable of making decision-making much more definitive and easy.”

Yet for researchers hoping to take advantage of mobile data and capabilities, Coplin says, “It is important that we do not get too far ahead of ourselves and remember that the user should always be in charge. Mobile has massive potential, but it’s something where we should be building services together, so that for every application being used the consumer knows why they are doing it, what they are sharing and it never leaves that context. If it’s not relevant, it has no purpose. Context is key to everything you offer and it should never be at the expense of the customer in any format. It can’t be a bad experience, it needs to be useful.”

Turning again to big data, Coplin says: “This is where it plays a key part. Big data has the potential to drive that relationship and help contextualise user behaviour in new, bold ways. There will be challenges you need to master – not least the issues around privacy. User expectations will change. You can’t just rely on clever algorithms to try and master your big data offerings. They can obviously be very powerful, but equally then be very damaging.

“What you’re receiving from a customer is a very fragile relationship with trust implied and you have to be respectful and extremely thoughtful of this at all times. Technological interactions are just becoming more and more popular and the ideal is for you to be aiding these interactions and emitting positive vibes, not infringing and creating resentment.”

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