In the tech and media industries, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest shiny object or hot media idea. But if products and services aren’t developed with consumer needs in mind, we risk alienating the very audiences we serve. Even in the span of the last two years I have seen a drastic shift in the way consumers digest information (and thereby marketing messages). Many marketers are finding it challenging to keep up.
Today’s consumer multi-tasks throughout the day. They demand total control over how content flows across their personal devices and digital environments. They’re “pulling” information to them at work, at home and on-the-go, rather than reacting to conventional “push” marketing messages during manufactured ‘primetime’ spots.
Marketers who will thrive in tomorrow’s marketplace are aware of, understand and are preparing for this shift. They’re looking at how they can better understand consumers and the means by which people digest and interact with the world around them.
And that’s where Microsoft comes in. It’s my team’s mission to help marketers better understand consumer motivations beyond basic device usage; we discover, derive and present consumer insights that solve real consumer needs. For example, this past spring, we conducted a Cross-Screen Engagement study that revealed four common pathways of multi-screen behavior and the motivations driving each one.
But we’re not stopping there.
Throughout April and May we invited consumers to join us in co-creation workshops, where we imagined advertising experiences that were genuinely engaging, delightful and entertaining to people. The goal was to create conceptual experiences that were more valuable and helpful to people as they moved across their purchase decision-making process. At the workshops, which took place at Studio 415in San Francisco for US consumers and in London’s Westminster neighborhood for consumers from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, we worked with people who had either recently purchased new cars or who regularly use technology to inform their personal care purchases. (For more detail on the London workshops, be sure to take a look at the blog post by my colleague Andy Hart.)
During the co-creation sessions the team used laddering and other ethnographic techniques to determine points of friction in the buying process. We then brainstormed how consumers would create better advertising through technology. We drew on the breadth of our portfolio of devices and services—including Windows 8, Surface, Skype, Windows 8 Phone and MSN—to create holistic solutions that meet consumer needs and marketer objectives.
Following our co-creation sessions in San Francisco and London, we synthesized what we learned, identified the most effective ideas, stress-tested them against our recent research (including the Cross-Screen Engagement and Consumer Decision Journey findings) and built ideal online interaction scenarios and prototypes. The following is a sample of what we learned:
- Personalized experiences, which they derive real value from (either material or simple a ‘feel-good’ factor) in exchange for sharing information with brands.
- The ability to easily share content and product/brand information with personal networks and across screens, anytime, anywhere.
- Seamless interaction across mobile phones, PCs, TVs and tablets—and better connection between screens and traditional media.
- Personalized reminders when it’s time to purchase new products, similar products or complete maintenance on their new car.
- A satisfying, technology-enabled retail environment that enables them to find what they need, but also enables a sense of fun and serendipity.
Take a look at our behind-the-scenes video documenting the workshops and design process to see how we glean insights, develop prototypes and create authentic consumer-first experiences.
Activities like the Co-creation process I just outlined will continue to be an integral part of our innovation process moving forward. I hope our prototypes spark imaginations at Cannes Lions and illustrate what’s possible when we really put consumers first.
Natasha Hritzuk, Senior Global Director of Research & Insights, Microsoft Advertising