Stop me if you already know how this story ends: You open your email, and suddenly you see ads for a product you looked at a few minutes ago. Then you open your Amazon account to check on an order, and the first thing you see is a selection of that same product in three sizes, 14 colors and free shipping and to your door in 2 days (if you order by 10:30 am). Then five minutes later, while reading an article, a full screen pop-up ad invades your world offering a 20% discount for that same product. You wait five seconds until you can kill the annoying window. You notice that the ads on the top of the web page and down the side are selling more of the same. Though the tiger-striped toilet plunger looks intriguing, you were never in the market for a plunger; you just wanted to find out if it was safe to use in the kitchen sink!
It seems that the landscape of online advertising has evolved a hundred times more sophisticated than it was in 2000. Back then, marketers placed advertising spend in places where they guessed consumers were in the market. For example, car advertisements on auto aficionado blogs and sites, cooking ware and local grocery ads on recipe sites and so on. Essentially the same marketing “placement” theory that was common years before the internet was born. Where consumers looked might indicate what they are interested in purchasing.
Then came Google Adsense (and others like them). Now, when a consumer looks at something that has a price tag, EVERYWHERE they look are ads for that product, regardless of what the subject matter of the site. Some with humorous results The response from consumers has been a mix of startling reactions “HOW do they know I was thinking about that?” and amusement “No I’m not interested in buying lingerie while reading about tractors…”. As far as effectiveness, many agree the jury is still out. Now, rumors are that your home assistant (Amazon Echo, Google Alexa, et al.) are “listening in” to “helping” their owners’ next search or purchase. Regardless of the truth to this, all of this targeted marketing is like walking down the street by a used car lot and making the mistake of slowing down to look at a car. If you can escape the next 50 feet down the sidewalk without a salesperson trying to drag you into the showroom, you’ll be lucky! After all, you were “just looking”.
However, the technology (and frankly thinking) of this type of marketing approach is no different than the approach of newspaper and magazine ads, yellow pages ads and TV ads of the last century. If a person is looking at something, there is a high likelihood that they are willing to buy it, or something related to it. However, marketers know that consumers have a journey when they purchase something. Its been called the “marketing” funnel for over 100 years. Also, any marketer worth their pay understands that the largest percentage of time a consumer spends in that “purchase path” is in the “research” or "consideration" phase. It is at this point that they may or may not buy the product in which they are looking. In fact, it is more likely they will not buy. This is why the “top” of the funnel is so large representing the number of consumers researching and the bottom, where consumers finally bought, is so small. Most are “just looking”.
Why, then, do marketers continue to pour a tremendous amount of marketing money on that side of the funnel? It only benefits the advertising engines (read: search engines). Outside of those who don’t know what they are doing, it is usually because marketers don’t know and/or cannot differentiate between casual browsing and those ready to buy. They think they know what, but they have no idea “when”.
During the development of its' platform, the Life.Cafe team realized the potential to radically disrupt the consumer/ buyer relationship that has existed since the first transaction between two people. Users who use Life.Cafe to plan and manage events answer a basic series of questions, no more than 3 at a time, authored by subject matter experts, resulting in a comprehensive series of milestones and timelines. The beauty of the system lies in its' interactions with vendors.
- When users agree that something must be bought, the system will initiate searches in the background resulting in potential vendors who have the products that are realted and needed.
- When it's time to initiate active buying, consumers are presented the curated lists.
- When the user is ready, Life.Cafe will start the conversation with the vendor (or vendors) involved in the current milestone.
The result; consumers never see annoying ads concerning items when they are “just looking”. They only are in the market when it is precisely time to buy. Also, vendors are not spending an enormous amount of energy (and money) engaging with people who are never going to become customers. Vendors will not need to initiate pop-up ads, email blasts and (the worst) robo-calls to people who are not in the market! Vendors only will engage with Life.Cafe customers when the customers are truly ready to buy. Finally, a platform that allows both consumers and vendors to succeed at the buying cycle.
Could the death of the perceived “evils” of marketing be close to coming to an end? Only if the transaction is a “when-when” for everyone.
Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash