Marketers Must Give Consumers What They Really Want: Return on Time Invested

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Today we bring you a guest post from BJ Kito. Kito is VP of business strategy and general counsel at Digital Surgeons, a full-service agency driven by the relentless urge to move brands forward.

When planning marketing strategies, we often overlook the importance of delivering ROI to consumers (yes, consumers). Brands always want to know what their expected return on investment is, but consumers expect a return on their own investment as well—and we’re not just talking discounts or promotions. In their case, it’s a return on the time they’ve invested to interact, engage, share or converse within their social communities.

Content Still King; Context Anointed Queen

In the near term, we’ll continue to look at consumers as belonging to different micro-communities and position brands within those communities for sharing and discussion. But as tech makes our lives more and more interconnected, these communities will be flooded with marketing messages.

Great content will be muted if not positioned and consumed in proper context as people will expect certain things when they are on certain devices or in certain networks. If content is not individualized or doesn’t add immediate value, then it will be as useful as a coupon for leg waxing sent to a lumberjack.

We must learn to use marketing as a way to help consumers enrich their lives in some way and for “brand advocates” to transfer their trust and loyalty to others.

Our main goal: to eliminate what marketers call the “consideration cycle” by providing consumers with exactly what they need when they need it.

Connected Devices: the Evolution from Buzzword to Reality

When working on communications strategies, we undervalue the context of an audience’s media consumption habits, and that limits our ability to use tech tools to cut through the noise and truly engage with consumers.

Our goal should be aligning subject matter with purpose and environment in order to seamlessly integrate marketing messages into the stream of content we (and our target audiences) see on our devices every day.

It’s Already Happening

Desktops, tablets and mobile phones are becoming smaller pieces of a more diversely connected world. Wearable technology (Google Glass, Samsung Galaxy Gear, Nike Fuelband, etc.), flexible screens (LG’s G Flex, AMOLED displays and maybe even the iWatch) and “smart” devices (connected TVs, gaming platforms like the XBox One, appliances & smart “homes,” etc.) must be understood from a consumer consumption/context point of view.

Take the FuelBand. It’s a device that fits harmoniously into a person’s daily routine and encourages healthy lifestyle goals while allowing Nike to promote products and its larger brand through a constant physical touch-point. It’s not obstructive, but it’s there with you whether you’re working, playing or relaxing. It adds value to the consumer’s daily life while subliminally etching the trademark swoosh into his or her brain.

In other words, it’s just as “disruptive” as it needs to be.

How far can this model go? Pretty far.

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Imagine a world in which your Samsung refrigerator doesn’t just know that you’re almost out of milk or that your current carton is about to expire; it’s smart enough to remind you to buy more. Maybe it sends you a push notification through a native “Stop n Shop” app on your phone or even offers you a discount or coupon to complete the purchase via the app. That’s what you need, when you need it!

Now picture an amusement park with long lines, a casino with crowded tables or a mall during heavy shopping days. We already have the tools to better direct supply and demand in these scenarios.

Take the casino example. Using tech and digital displays, we can drive gaming and shopping experiences by adjusting the messaging we send to the crowd in real-time based on foot traffic, demographics and demand.

During the holidays, outlets are already mobbed with deal-seekers—so let’s cater to them by serving up dynamic targeted ads. We can also make the casino more efficient by using interactive maps to “funnel” patrons toward tables with open seats. We can even take advantage of an overcrowded location by using timely promos to direct consumers toward other retailers.

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Now, imagine this interactive trend going a step further…

Shoppable walls

  • Scan and save deals to redeem at stores
  • Order products for in-store pick-up without interrupting your gaming experience
  • Get interactive directions to stores and casino games

Near-Field Communications Transactions for Smart Devices

  • Let shoppers make transactions directly from the experience via NFC or other payment systems like Apple’s iWallet – easy and instant transactions using secure digital wallets on phones and no need for credit cards

Crowd Detection to Drive Supply and Demand

  • Technology such as Microsoft’s Kinect gives us the ability to determine crowd levels in key areas of the casino floor and shopping areas to serve up dynamic content

Sharing the experience

  • Share your experience, tag your friends and send them deals or gaming info

Loyal customers: a byproduct of the contextual micro-message

The future of marketing lies in personalized stories and customized value. Bottom line: people are starved for time.

Successful marketing will feel one-on-one, will speak to a consumer’s current needs, deliver them immediate value and a true ROTI (Return on Time Invested).

BJ Kito is a graduate of Boston University’s School of Management and a barred attorney in New York and Connecticut. He’s entrepreneurial, a dedicated teammate and involuntarily gluten-free. Follow him on Twitter @DigitalEsquire or LinkedIn.