The movement to digital convergence provides marketers with the basic resources needed to monitor users’ activity, namely, digital data. Any media outlet relying on technology (e.g., internet, mobile, CRM, etc.) to manage the flow of information does so using electronic signals generated by computer technology. In a simple form, an electronic signal is represented as being either “on” or “off”. In computer language, this is further represented by two numbers “0” and “1” and, consequently, is known as digital data. All digital information has the potential to be captured, stored, and evaluated using data analytics and other software programs.
For media outlets, information delivered in digital form offers the possibility of greater tracking of customers’ exposure to specific advertisements. And tracking does not stop with what ads are being delivered; it also works with information being sent from the customer. For instance, as we noted earlier, by clicking on their television screen viewers will soon be able to receive instantly information about products they saw while watching a television show. This activity can be tracked then used in future marketing efforts, such as ads for the same product appearing on a customer’s smartphone.
While media convergence offers marketers more options for tracking response to advertisements, such activity also raises ethical and legal concerns, particularly as these relate to customer privacy. Despite these concerns, customer tracking is widely used and newer methods continue to be deployed. Below we present just a few examples of how marketers are tracking users include:
- Television Viewing – The advent of digitally delivered television allows cable, telephone and satellite providers to track user activity through the set-top boxes connected to a subscriber’s television. Future innovation will make the user television experience even more interactive and, consequently, open to even more tracking.
- Television Recording – A DVR that is included with many set-top digital television boxes can track users recording habits and, based on a viewers’ past activity, make suggestions for programs they may want to record. Additionally, advertising services can program the DVR to insert advertisements within a program targeted to a particular viewer.
- Mobile Device Usage – The newest frontier for user tracking can be found with mobile devices including smartphones and tablet computers. Tracking companies are moving aggressively into this area by offering data that includes: websites visited; downloads of music, games and apps; and other activity that occurs with mobile devices.