What can we predict about the future of market information? It depends entirely on what you mean by the term, so let’s start by looking at that. I think the term should be split into its separate components, with “market” being understood as supply and demand, and “information” as processed data. As a result, the term implies information about companies, products and services, customers and leads that exist in one or more markets. This is a wider interpretation than the traditional one, which in most cases relates to maintaining customer registers and lists of more or less hot leads.
I think this in itself says something about the future of market information – that the term needs to be broadened to stay relevant. The better we can understand our market – with not just customers but also competitors, partners, products and services – the greater are our opportunities to influence it in a particular direction and create new business opportunities. Certainly, to some extent it is about leads, but also about creating better customer relationships, more flexible products and strategic partnerships.
Various sources of information
In this wider perspective we may need to look at which sources of information are currently underutilised. News media for example, which most people consume to some extent, is one such candidate. Today there exists technology to systematise such kind of information, draw conclusions and present them in a structured way as a basis for better understanding and well-founded decisions. The rapid development in AI, or machine learning, combined with tools for language processing is quickly widening the playing field in regard to what information resources that can be used.
Continuing the theme of machine learning, I find it being increasingly used in marketing contexts – for channel optimization, automated content creation and chatbots to name a few examples. As consumers, we are increasingly coming across machines that are devoted to influencing our decisions. Extrapolating from that, I don’t think we are too far away, as consumers, from having robots make purchases on our behalf. You simply ask your robot to buy the cheapest of a particular model of sunglasses, preferably with good delivery terms and of course within a given price range. Add to this that an overwhelming proportion of the clicks on banners already come from robots, and we can distinguish a future in which both supply and consumption are increasingly carried out automatically. The consequences of this are difficult to fully imagine. The closest comparison might be automated trading on the stock exchange, with dramatic surges and drops in prices as unintended results.
There are some indications that the big ecosystems of Facebook and Google will be first to put this type of full automation of the market into practice. They are sitting on incredible volumes of data and know you better than any living being. I cannot imagine any other type of player that can match supply and demand better. We may ask ourselves the somewhat philosophical question of what role people will have in this context in the long term. In the slightly shorter term, we need to get to grips with the possibilities of ad-tech and organize ourselves so that we get the maximum benefit by combining cutting edge technology with people of various skills.
Regulations & privacy
Yet another aspect of the future is further regulations to avoid the abuse of all the information that is available. We still do not see the full implication of the GDPR, and the EU’s new ePrivacy regulation may be just around the corner. But these are long processes and it’s safe to say that technology will develop faster than regulations and find new paths. Although regulations give individuals more tools for safeguarding their privacy, we are increasingly suffering from “consent fatigue” – an unwillingness to constantly decide on cookies, consents and advertising settings when surfing the web. The quickest way to click away these irritating boxes often wins the game. One consequence will be that we’ll have many consents for collecting and processing data in any ways imaginable, but at the same time we will know less about those individuals who are careful with their privacy settings. Quite simply, we may get an even more chequered picture of who we are dealing with.
I figure we might have got things slightly wrong when it comes to privacy, and overcomplicated things. Flows of data are complex, and it is asking a lot of individuals to constantly make meaningful decisions on privacy matters and understand the consequences of their choices in a broader perspective. At the end of the day – would you rather see ads for the bike you have already bought, or for accessories that go with it? I believe there is a golden opportunity here for credible players to create simple services for consumers who want to manage their online and offline information, something which requires large-scale cooperation and for technology companies to succeed in restoring some kind of trust around the ethical use of data.
If asked to choose just a few things that will particularly characterize the market for market information in the future, I would pick even more information available, greater expectations on information quality and a wealth of new creative services largely pioneered by the large platform providers. What do you think is the future of market information? Please reach out if you want to continue the discussion or hear more of my thoughts.