By 2030, the use of predictive analytics (the art of using information to predict future actions) in marketing will be vastly more sophisticated. We “consume” (eat, drink or use) many products and services every day. As the average person goes through their life, some of their purchases are easy to predict – a student will need a computer; a car owner will need gas; a new homeowner will need paint; appliances or gardening equipment; a new parent will need a crib or stroller, etc. However, most of the goods and services we purchase involve a decision process influenced by many factors including our income, our values, our problems and aspirations, our experiences and our mood on a particular day (all of which shape our preferences) as well as our awareness of the options available to us. As consumers do more and more research, purchasing and general sharing of information about their likes, dislikes, interests and values online, huge amounts of data are being created. For example, it is estimated that more than 30 billion pieces of content are shared on social media in any given month. That’s why it’s called “Big Data”. In fact, the amount is so massive that traditional data processing applications are having a difficult time living up to the task of managing it all, let alone analyzing it.
As these massive amounts of data are becoming open (to varying degrees) to tracking and analysis and the ability of information technology to manage the data grows, opportunities are being created to understand the needs of individual consumers and serve them in a much more personally relevant way. Big Data contains not only insights into the preferences of individuals but also the potential to discover trends and patterns among groups of people with similar preferences. These trends and patterns, along with the application of some psychology, will make it easier for marketers to understand their potential customers in much greater depth and, based on the past actions of similar customers, predict what products and services will be of greatest interest to those potential customers.
At the same time, as big online sellers and distributors such as Amazon grow and reduce the shopping time and shipping costs experienced by customers, becoming highly efficient hubs for moving “baskets” of goods from a variety of producers directly to individual consumers, the way will be opened for more businesses who serve very specific needs (by providing “niche” products and services) to reach more customers much more easily and cost-effectively. By registering with these online distributors, businesses with niche offerings will further enrich the product and service side of the big data equation, which will be necessary to help marketers match the right product or service to specific customer profiles.
In general, we spend money today (or save it for tomorrow) to take care of immediate and anticipated necessities, solve our problems, and receive enjoyment and fulfilment. Everything we buy serves a purpose in creating the lifestyle to which we aspire, a lifestyle that makes us feel good. Advertisers regularly use images and words to link desirable lifestyles and feelings with their product – whether that be freedom from pain, feeling beautiful or glamorous, feeling successful from driving a particular brand of car or feeling like a good parent who gives their child “the best ” – because advertisers know that people are more likely to buy something if they can envision using it in a way that makes them feel good.
By 2019, leading information technology company Cisco predicts that 80% of the world’s internet traffic will be videos. This speaks to how attracted human beings are to things that stimulated their visual senses.
The power of “seeing” or envisioning a product in a setting that conveys a feeling that the consumer desires was first used to help sell products in photographic print advertising and TV commercials. It is now the force behind “product placement” in TV shows, movies and videos. Most recently, this type of envisioning has been used in lifestyle videos and blogs that interweave a personal story with the use of particular products and services. At the same time, online advertising has become increasingly targeted. For example, if you have ever viewed a product online and added it to your shopping cart or wish list at an online retailer but have not yet purchased the product, odds are that you will have started seeing ads for that product appear when you visit other websites that feature advertising. You may have also seen ads for related, “people who have purchased A have also purchased B” products. While this type of advertising can serve a useful purpose, it can also feel invasive or annoying when it’s employed in a very unsophisticated manner. As online advertising continues to evolve, it must become less “in your face” and more artful in order to draw-in the consumer by entertaining or adding value in some other way.
The leap forward in understanding the preferences of consumers at a personal level and the evolution of online visual media (including videos and other applications) that will allow marketers to present individual consumers with very specific products and services that match their immediate needs while opening a path of convenience by anticipating their future needs creates opportunities on four career fronts in the field of marketing. In a cycle that starts with gathering, managing and analyzing masses of data and ends with targeted and insightful communications that help individual consumers conveniently meet their needs, the Big Data Wrangler, Purchase Prediction Analyst, Multi-Marketer and Marketing eMediamaker will all play a key role. Follow the links to learn more about how post-secondary studies can prepare you for one of these careers.
This article (originally authored by Marjorie Cullen) is part of a library of inspiring resources at careers2030.cst.org that helps aspiring, current and graduated college or university students envision their future career and plan their post-secondary and continuing education accordingly.