Marketing in the Era of Programmatic Consumption

J. Walker Smith
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
  • Consumers are relying on predictive contextual apps for assessing alternatives, and soon enough, for placing orders, too.
  • The objective must be to get a brand into consumers’ preference profiles.
  • Programmatic consumption is taking over the pre-purchase experience—and thus, in broad strokes, taking it out of play for marketers. 
We call them contextual apps, but they’re much more. They’re the first iteration of the future, here today, of programmatic consumption in which algorithms will automate consumers’ decision-making.

Instead of buying on the basis of their own evaluations and heuristics, consumers are using technology to do that for them. This offloads the costs of time and attention while providing the benefits of relevance and timeliness. Consumers are relying on predictive contextual apps for assessing alternatives, and soon enough, for placing orders, too. These algorithms are nothing but programs, just like those used with increasing frequency by marketers. Programmatic marketing is being matched head-on by programmatic consumption. With gathering speed, the marketplace is moving from marketer-to-consumer relationships to algorithm-to-algorithm interactions.

This is a shift from a “meet-demand” marketplace of old, which was centered on planning, to an “on-demand” marketplace of today, which is centered on responding, and ultimately leading to a “know-demand” marketplace of tomorrow, which will be centered on predicting. Prediction has always been critical to marketing planning and responsiveness, but this was done by marketers to anticipate what consumers would buy. In the future, consumers will be using predictive tools that will decide what to buy for them.

Already, consumers are using predictive tools in the form of apps that push notifications and nudges, and these sorts of pushes are becoming smarter. The next phase, clearly visible on the horizon, are predictions that translate immediately into decisions.

The key element in this shift is “the pivot to passive.” Sensors are replacing screens as the primary way in which consumers engage with digital technologies—and this is more than sensors in handheld devices. This is the Internet of Things in which every object, human and non-human, will be embedded with a digital interface that interacts with every other object. These data streams, collected passively, without consumers actively inputting information, will be monitored and routed into algorithms that will analyze these data in real time, triggering immediate responses.​​

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Author Bio:
J. Walker Smith
J. Walker Smith is executive chairman of The Futures Co., part of the Kantar Group of WPP, and co-author of four books, including Rocking the Ages. Follow him on Twitter at @jwalkersmith.

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