tumbling dominos

It’s a marketing trick as old as the hills: positioning a product’s negative aspects as a positive. (à la Don Draper: “It’s toasted.”) And that’s exactly what’s happening in our industry today, as some vendors promote “push” delivery as the future of the web. 

My view: push is wildly out of sync with what customers want. And this type of functionality is so much less than what the WCM/customer experience software industry is capable of delivering.

Smoke and Mirrors

There are over 1,000 web content management systems available today. And some of them are stuck with a page-rendering orientation and less flexible output models which enforces rigid design and functionality limits. 

This doesn’t bode well in an environment where marketers need to “paint the screen” to give customers content delivered on their terms, in the context of whatever they’re doing at that moment. 

Some of the WCMs that are struggling with the newer marketing centric requirements are trying to change the conversation to “the future of the web is push.” 

Don’t Push Me

When you walk into a store and a salesperson immediately asks you if you want help, how often do you say, “No thanks, I’m just looking.” When you’re ready, on your own time, you’ll find that salesperson and say, “I’d like some help, please.” 

Push delivery ignores this fundamental tenet of human nature: in every aspect of our travels, we go through different phases of intimacy.

The same thing applies with email and notifications in customer relationships. There’s a time and a place for them, but it all depends on the particular customer and the context of the moment: the customer, their intent, the situation, and the level of intimacy they are open to.

For example, if your credit card company thinks there may be fraudulent activity on your card, it’s totally OK to get a text message in the checkout line, asking you to confirm a purchase, in the moment. But a random text message to announce a promotional rate on balance transfers? No way.

Between smartphones and smart watches, people are already drowning in all the notifications that are pushed to them: email, calendar appointments, text messages, Facebook, LinkedIn and now, IoT “notification hell.”

Push can lead to saturation and, ultimately, technology abandonment.

Communicating on the Customer’s Terms

It takes a lot of listening to understand where customers are at and the context of their situation at that moment. This is what it means to communicate with a customer on their terms, not the marketer’s.

To deliver contextual experiences in the moment, for individual customers, you need a lot of data. Databases are now available that capture every customer interaction, spanning all digital and off-line interaction channels. But this complete view of the customer is just the beginning.

Pulling Toward the Future

Here’s where I think the web is going in the next 10 years or so: people will take more control over what they get. As empowered consumers, we will start to create the flow of access with automated pull. So, in my view, the future of the web and everything that’s connected to it is not going to be push, it’s going to be much smarter pull.

We will have machines and intelligent agents fetching the stuff that we care about. One of my favorite authors, David Meerman Scott, predicted this long ago. It’s taken a long time to get here, but we are finally seeing viable intelligent agents and assistants. Siri is an amazing starting point. With the explosion of IoT devices, too, we will eventually see intelligent notifications –– like your smart fridge notifying you that you’re out of milk when you’re a quarter mile from the grocery store in your Tesla. 

Seek First to Understand

One of the best-selling, and most practical, business books of all time inspired my thinking: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Take a moment and read Habit 5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” That’s solid advice for anyone in the software business.