Today I want to go long and introduce the idea of a Consumer Experience Engine, something we’ve been batting around at Krux.
The web’s first wave, which started in the mid 90s, introduced what amounts to a parallel consumer universe, an entirely new environment where we can do old things in entirely new ways. It introduced online banking as a counterpart to the teller at the neighborhood branch. It delivered ecommerce as the counterpart to brick-and-mortar retail. It introduced us to online advertising as the counterpart to commercials on TV or glossy ads in magazines.
As with all things, the old gives way to the new, and we quickly lose sight of the difference. Once we had online banking; now there is just ‘banking.’ Once there was addressable media; increasingly there is just ‘media.’ As a label, ‘online’ isn’t wrong, it’s just non-descript, inasmuch as online-offline is increasingly a distinction without a difference.
In the old regime, content creators, delivery channels, and marketers were the center of the cosmos, predators on the hunt for viewers, consumers, and purchases. In the age of the consumer Internet, the web makes nearly every transaction, every experience personal and consumer-led. Just as online banking became ‘banking’ and addressable media becomes ‘media,’ soon consumer data gives way to just data. When we refer to data, we will have in mind information about consumers: who they are, what they want, where they’re headed. Business process data (bookings, billings, backlog, shipments – the raw materials of old-school ERP) is its exhaust.
What powers the transformation of consumer data into decision and task assistance for consumers and improved performance for businesses? The Consumer Experience Engine.
Legacy infrastructure has been architected for specific functions such as automating processes, serving ads, tracking inventory, or balancing the books. Businesses will continue to rely on existing systems of record for certain tasks, but they will be left wanting as they try to respond to the speed and scale of a web-enabled market and attempt to serve a consumer who already expects more than they can deliver.
Very few enterprises or institutions are in a position to invest in developing technology and analytic firepower the new consumer reality requires. While the likes of Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook have the blood and treasure to construct their bespoke solutions, most companies will rely on Consumer Experience Engines for capturing, analyzing, connecting, and harvesting value from consumer data across devices.
The future of business will be instantaneous, personal, and machine-driven, but still premised in human connections and basic understanding of individuals’ needs. The first wave of Internet development centered on the flow of bits, bytes, keywords, texts, email, and digital content of all kinds. The next wave is about knowledge and discovery and the active, intelligent optimization of consumer experience at every turn. It will be powered by Consumer Experience Engines: intelligent, always-on services that continually make sense of the flood of data flowing across IP-enabled devices to inform human decision-making and to anticipate and respond to peoples’ needs, interests, and desires. Connected via open standards and shared protocols, Consumer Experience Engines become nodes in a pervasive, intelligent grid that connects data on a just-in-time basis to the events, places, and devices where it’s needed most.
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