In INMA’s recent strategic report, “How the Connected Consumer Is Redefining News Media,” author Paul Berney outlined the ramifications for media companies when the individual is in control of the intersection of publishers, media, and their audiences.

On Wednesday, Berney presented an INMA Webinar in which he shared his take on the “connected consumer” and how it is changing the global news media industry.

Berney, founder of The Connected Marketer and a mobile marketing specialist, described how “connectedness” has changed the behaviour and expectation of readers and, subsequently, should be changing how marketers communicate to this “connected individual.”

Berney introduced the topic by discussing what today’s technology and information society has created in consumer expectations.

“We walk around, particularly with our mobile devices, to have this sense of instant gratification — this ability to instantly connect to our digital selves,” Berney said.

This allows us to tap and know, tap and buy, instantly at any time — which has led to an expectation building for this kind of instant gratification. It’s what Google calls “micro moments.”

“You live with the knowledge that you are connected, and the ability to reach into this digital world, constantly,” Berney said.

What a Connected Marketer™ does is look into the world of these connected individuals, to create, develop, and maintain a brand that understands and meets their needs. The way of building a brand that meets their needs by merging and synchronising the consumer’s physical, digital, and emotional brand experience.

Berney said that there are four key tasks which marketers need to undertake to achieve this.

The connected consumer has the ability for instant gratification in the digital world, and publishers must adapt and market to that.
The connected consumer has the ability for instant gratification in the digital world, and publishers must adapt and market to that.

1. Build a better understanding of your audience.

A big part of this is simply finding different ways to listen to what your audience is saying. With attention being a finite resource in the “firehose” of information coming at them, using market research in a more involved way helps take attention of what your audience is telling you.

Berney suggested starting with the individual, determining his or her need. “Generally speaking, we can fit the needs of our target audience into three buckets.” These are their wants (fun, entertainment, acceptance, recognition); their shoulds (fitness, education, saving money); and their frictions or things they want to minimise (cost savings, time, annoyances, risk).

“The first thing to do is look at our target audience and ask, ‘Which of these three blocks of needs can we appeal to?’” Berney said.

How do you find that out? The audience is telling you, through their digital activities, that produce signals that reveal insights, which can be amplified by context. “In other words, through our Internet usage, our social usage, our mobile usage, we reveal much about ourselves, our attitudes and opinions and motivations,” Berney said.

What media companies should be doing is to look for these signals of intent to find out what the audience wants. Much of that, Berney said, can be gleaned from their smartphone searches — as much as 80% of which are spontaneous.

Much of the Internet is about aiding discovery on these searches; in fact, the five biggest destinations on the Internet are geared toward exactly that (Facebook, Amazon, Google, YouTube and WordPress).

Understanding these digital signals will help publishers answer three key questions:

  • Does this audience want short-form or long-form content?
  • How can we make our content stand out?
  • How will they find our content on mobile devices?

2. Enable your audience.

The second step is to give your audience what they want, when they want it. It’s not about how you want to sell, Berney said — it’s about how consumers want to buy. “A key aspect of that is understanding the customer journey.”

The most helpful way to think of this is as a circular journey that the customers take. And rather than using the language of marketing, publishers should use the words they would use themselves on their own journey of discovery into content and information.

“It may be more helpful to think of our role as publishers in a simpler way,” Berney said. Many of the most successful publishers have figured this out and are doing it; he cited The Wall Street Journal as an example.

The consumer's freedom to be connected any time to anything leads to an instant gratification that Google calls “micro moments.”
The consumer's freedom to be connected any time to anything leads to an instant gratification that Google calls “micro moments.”

There are four key ways to enable the audience:

  • Help them discover new content.
  • Help them build their understanding through content that answers their questions.
  • Help them form opinions or make decisions through content that provides them with options.
  • Make it easy for them to share the content they value with others.

3. Remove barriers to engagement.

“Taking away the key things that make it difficult for people to engage should be a key task for every publisher,” Berney said. Make it as easy as possible for people to do business with you, because no one likes complexity.

He used the analogy of choosing wine from among hundreds in a supermarket. Most of us don’t have a vast, extensive knowledge of wines, and the selection can be overwhelming. So we use price as a proxy, depending on what and for whom we’re buying it. None of this has to do with the actual quality of any given wine; it’s about how we take out the complexity and reduce friction.

Berney compared this to the way that Amazon sells wine, which reduces this friction over complexity. Amazon asks a variety of questions about the consumer’s need for the wine, before even showing them the choices available. They make it simple and easy for the wine buyer to navigate.

“Our expectations of consumers are not being set by you as publishers. They are being set by the leaders in the digital space — largely by the experiences we are having with Amazon, Facebook, Apple and others,” Berney said. They set the bar for brand experiences. “People expect a high level of digital interaction, that is set by somebody else.”

Connected individuals expect one or more of these 10 things when they return to your site:

  • Recognise me.
  • Remember me.
  • Adapt to me.
  • Assist me.
  • Value me.
  • Reward me.
  • Anticipate me.
  • Delight me.
  • Protect me.
  • Respect me.

We are witnessing the end of “average.” The reality is that all of us want to be treated as individuals — not an average. We all want a bespoke experience.

4. Be of service.

Data should be used to create value for, not from, individuals. “Yes, we want to use that data we’re collecting to cross-sell and upsell publications to people,” Berney said. “But in the first instance, we should be asking ourselves how to use this data for value to our target audience.”

In many ways, this means that publishers will have to master data science skills that will allow them to create personalisation of content, which is absolutely critical.

Amazon, again, is an example of a company that does this really well. “Amazon is continually introducing new code, new software, and in fact new products that are all about enabling you as an individual to do what you want, when you want it, and how you want it. In fact, [the company is] personalising everything as much as possible with the least friction you could possibly have.”

Case study: Starbucks

A brand which exemplifies all of these things is Starbucks, which Berney used as an example.

Howard Schultz, the founder, one saidsaid, “No single competency is enabling us to elevate the Starbucks brand more than our global leadership in mobile, digital, and loyalty.”

Starbucks is a brand that has really understood how to combine digital and physical marketing together, and make them work in a seamless way. About 27% of all the company’s revenue comes through its mobile app, used to buy the products in stores.

Starbucks understands how important it is to establish a personal contact and connection. Berney played the following video, which demonstrates how Starbucks personalises the customer experience through its mobile app and physical store.

The important thing about this is that Starbucks didn’t introduce its mobile app to meet the company’s needs. It was so customers wouldn’t have to wait in a long queue for their order. It was, in fact, to solve a customer need, not their own.

Get the skills

To make these things happen, Berney said publishers need to either hire people that know this stuff or learn new skills themselves. “It’s not about just the digital. It’s about finding ways of combining physical and digital together.”