The Internet is about take a U-turn—is your business prepared?


The Internet has always been based on the pull model—the user pulls information into their browser by searching and following the links in those search results. The pull model is so entrenched in the Internet economy that search engine optimization (SEO) became an entire industry with its own gurus and magic. 

About a year ago, I was arguing in the post “Goodbye, catalog browsing: Show me the ‘buy’ button!” that catalog browsing (pull) by itself does not add any business value. The only reason on-line merchants invest in powerful product search and navigation is the sad fact that they do not know what visitors to their site actually want.  

This is about to change. The Internet is taking a U-turn and changing from the pull to the push model. Pushing relevant information to users at right time and in the right context has always been the holy grail of Internet marketers. Thanks to smartphones in every pocket, the Internet of Things and powerful data-processing techniques, businesses are gaining the ability to predict user needs and push relevant information, services or products directly to consumers.

The rise of the digital personal assistant

A good executive personal assistant was always expected to know what information is important, and “push” it to the boss. He also remembered birthdays and the tastes of family members and knew what gift to suggest or even buy and send on behalf of the busy boss. Now, digital personal assistants are making rapid progress in learning our tastes and habits, and are ready to sort out and push relevant suggestions our way. 

A lot of useful information lives in apps installed on your mobile phone. “Now Cards in the Google app push to you relevant information at the right time, without you having to ask for it” says Aparna Chennapragada, Google Now director of product management.

The Spotify app running on a smartwatch that measures your pulse can determine your location on a lake shore, learn who you are with from a Facebook check-in and suggest music that is just right to set the mood.

This information push can be triggered by the location and context of your activities—when you arrive in the airport, a traveling tracking app on your phone knows your hotel reservation and can push you information about public transport options to get to the city or, why not—even arrange an Uber driver for you.

Running and cycling tracking app Strava knows exactly how many miles you logged in a year. If you give it information about the brand of your running shoes and when you bought them, Strava should be in best position to know when to offer you a new pair and what type of shoes fits best your runner profile. I can easily see bike manufactures teaming up with Strava to offer a bike parts replacement service, as well. 

It is even easier with cars, which have more computer power under the hood than a mid-size IT department. As a car tracks the number of miles driven and road conditions, it should not only push to driver information about upcoming service, but also find a good spot in the calendar to schedule the appointment.

Data is the currency that buys loyalty

In the era of the “push” Internet, all communications need to be personal and based on a deep knowledge of the customer. To master the push, businesses need to collect, consolidate and analyze customer information from all available sources. Insights from that need to be meshed with contextual information about user’s location, activity, weather, time of the day, calendar appointments, and anything else that can add value in determining the relevant communication in the exactly right moment. Yes, your business does need to hire data scientists.

It is not enough to know what customer’s order history; businessed needs to know how a customer is using its products. One way to achieve this is to make your product smart and connected and make it a part of Internet of Things network. You can also look at adding services to your catalog or replacing some products with services to establish a long-term relationship with customers and help to gain that knowledge. 

As Dries Buytaert writes in Techcrunch blog , “These one-to-one interactions and deep understanding of individuals won’t be limited to the consumer experience — it could also disrupt production of goods. Today, we try to anticipate consumer demand and create mass amounts of products that are pushed to the market via global distribution channels and marketing. A push economy could mean an end to standardized products and the introduction of highly customized goods and services, produced on-demand and delivered to consumers.”

Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page once said, “Maybe you don’t want to ask a question; maybe you want to just have it answered for you before you ask it.” The era of anticipating every customer need has already arrived.

Michael Vax
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May 18, 2015
Michael Vax

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