Customized Marketing: The Emerging Marketing Trend in a Multi-Connected World

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on October 28, 2013

In Steven Spielberg’s Tom Cruise starrer science fiction Minority Report, there was a scene where the protagonist enters a shopping mall. Cameras and iris scanners located at the complex identify him and digital posters advertise according to his past purchase record. Many of us, who appreciated the thriller for its unique plot and complicated storytelling that unfolds in layer after layer, could not buy into the thought of this particular scene to be a reality in the future.

Today, after about 11 years on a lazy Sunday afternoon, David, software professional at a leading IT firm who wants to purchase a pair of denims, goes to an online store to search for his favourite brand’s offering. He hunts for some shades while checking his mail account at his laptop, but he does not find any fit of his choice and closes the website.

Next day, when David opens his browser to read the newspaper on his tablet, he sees an advertisement by the same online store with new stock of his preferred brand’s pair of denims with an exciting discount offer.

Welcome to the era of customized marketing in a multi-connected world!

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The Multi-Connected Era

In the recent past, the world has seen exponential growth when it comes to internet connectivity. IDC forecasts 45% of the global population - 3.2 billion people will access the internet by 2016. Internet-mobile users will increase from 174 million to 265 million by 2016 at a CAGR of 12.8% and mobile advertising will almost quintuple from $6 billion to $28.8 billion by 2016 at a CAGR of 37%.

Riding on the rise of mobile devices, wearable technology, personal cloud, internet connectivity and smart homes technology, commercial wireless signals cover more of the world’s population than the electrical grid, and the number of connected devices around the globe is expected to hit anywhere from 50 billion to a staggering one trillion in the next five years. The sheer enormity of digital information that now connects us is mind-blowing. Cisco estimates that, by 2015, the amount of data crossing the internet every 5 minutes will be equivalent to the total size of all movies ever made, and that annual internet traffic will reach a Zettabyte – roughly 200 times the total size of all words ever spoken by humans.

The Role of Digital Intelligence

Johnson is a tech savvy investment banker. He watches movies on his internet TV, plays online games on his high-speed-processor-equipped laptop, reads books online on his tablet, keeps track of his health updates on his digital watch, listens to music on his smartphone when commuting for office and works on a desktop at his office. All these devices are connected to wireless internet, and provide a seamless user experience with the efficient operating systems and personal cloud.

As the number and variety of devices providing internet access explode, the paradigm of content consumption and commerce is shifting from a fixed location computing to multiple screens across multiple locations. With the rise of tools for digital intelligence, firms can have visibility of devices, locations, technologies and usage patterns that characterize multidevice internet access. They can really understand the interactions across digital channels in a business context and can take direct actions on insights. They can capture, manage, and analyze the data to provide a holistic view of the digital customer experience that drives the measurement, optimization and execution of marketing tactics and business strategies.

Value to the customer

Michael, an MBA student at a premium B-school, wants to pick a nice gift for his girlfriend’s birthday. He quickly picks up his laptop and searches in the online store for his girlfriend’s favourite fragrance brand. However his laptop is low on battery, so he tries again on his smartphone. He opens the browser and finds a fragrance store’s ad, with his choice of fragrance, discount offers and the list of nearby stores, as well. He purchases the perfume from one of the stores listed on his way and feels very happy to be the customer of such a technologically advanced store. Has the store gained the customer loyalty today? Will Michael purchase his own perfume from that store only? Seems likely, right?

As per KANO model which explains the relationship between the presence of the attribute and the resultant customer satisfaction from the same, customized marketing at this stage can definitely be put in the “Delighters” category. Companies can join the bandwagon and try to win customer loyalty; otherwise, with time it would drift from “Delighters” to “Must Be” category. Companies can avoid the customized marketing in the multi-connected era with digital intelligence on their own risk.

Value for the marketers

Peter, an engineering student, watches videos online for entertainment. But, off late, he is getting irritated with the ads that he is forced to watch despite not being interested in them, by his favourite free online video store. He is looking for alternative websites for online entertainment these days.

After segmenting, targeting and positioning, the real challenge for a marketer comes in the form of choosing the correct communication channel. Most of the marketers struggle to achieve the optimum convert ratio of their marketing budget into potential sales. Customized marketing can help them reduce their marketing expenses and pass on that value to the customer.

In the value model which explains the points of parity, points of differentiation and points of contention, digital intelligence can help in finding the sweet spot. Customized marketing can be used thereafter in hitting that sweet spot in an effective way.

Challenges with customized marketing

With evident benefits to offer, customized marketing does have some challenges to address.


Jincy, a single mother and a nurse at a cardiac centre, initially liked the experiences with customized marketing; but, later on she found that her personal email id that she used to register for a few online retail stores, had been shared with credit card companies. Now after this bitter incident, she avoids online shopping or sharing any information over internet.

Privacy is a vital issue that can slow down the adoption of customized marketing. Without proper customer rights in place, huge data generated through various devices over internet can lead to privacy breach.

Customized marketing missing the target

Thomas, an accomplished lawyer, wanted to purchase a luxury car. He searched on the internet for about 10-15 days to find the right car which would fit his needs. He read a lot of blogs, visited websites of leading brands to get a feel of the product and finally purchased the car of his choice from a nearby showroom. Still, he is getting online car advertisements on all his internet connected devices. Though he is not going to purchase any car for the next few years, he will be receiving these advertisements for the next few weeks. Is there a way to even track that ?

Lisa, a home maker, wanted to buy a premium watch as a surprise anniversary gift for her husband Johnny. She did an online search about the same on her desktop which led to customized advertisements. As all their devices were connected to personal cloud, Johnny also got watch ads on his smartphone. It didn’t take much time for him to understand the story behind this. Lisa was sad that her surprise plan fell flat :P

Customized marketing could be an efficient tool for targeting the right customer, at the right time and at the right place with the right product. But as the multi connected devices are very personal, the digital intelligence for capturing the leads should be smart enough to not to cause any dissatisfaction to the customer.

Measuring Channel Effectiveness

Roger, a marketing executive at a leading automobile brand, used his budget for customized marketing for increasing the sales of the month. He used smartphones, tablets and laptops to capture the data points and to advertise. As a result, sales were increased by 20% MoM (month-over month). To channelize his funds in the right direction, he wants to concentrate on the most profitable device medium; but it is next to impossible to know which device caused the customer to make the purchase call.

Technology is trying to give customers a seamless user experience across the devices. This asks for making adjustments from the companies’ part as per various devices. Smartphone users prefer native applications over regular websites to enrich internet usage experience. Companies need to choose their communication channel effectively. For example: A restaurant ad would be more beneficial on a smartphone compared to a laptop. Likewise, a car ad would be more beneficial on a laptop compared to a smartphone. This complexity makes it difficult to find the optimum channel and hence the decision on further investment plans.

The Way Forward

Marketers must consider customized marketing as it provides them an opportunity to react to changes in customer behaviour instantly, making the link between analytics and marketing crucial for coordinating interactions based on timely insights. At the same time, challenges associated with privacy, measuring channel effectiveness and narrowing the gap between predictive analytics and customer intention should be addressed in a very thoughtful manner.

This article has been authored by Ravi Purohit from IIM Bangalore






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