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Using Data to Create Contextualized Digital Experiences

Sarahkate Stephens

By Sarahkate Stephens

Digital Strategist

Category

Consumers

April 25, 2016

Consumers today are exposed to media in ever-expanding ways, which makes them expect more from each experience. While this does make creating a successful digital experience more difficult, it also opens up incredible opportunities for businesses willing to put in the effort. You have the chance to reach users where they are, cater to their current needs, and create contextualized experiences for them. The most important thing to ask yourself when embarking on the journey is this:

How does a user’s behavior change when trying to accomplish a task in relation to where they are and what they are doing?

The more you know about your audience’s habits, surroundings, and preferences, the better prepared you will be to deliver contextualized experiences. The key here is to gather as much data as possible on your audience in order to answer the question above.

There are many companies who are making the most of data in order to produce contextualized digital experiences for their customers, including some big names like GrubHub and Spotify.

GrubHub

GrubHub is a food-ordering and delivery service available in many cities in the United States. They aggregate local restaurants and provide a website and native app that allow users to order from a large list of restaurants at any time. Because it is a delivery service, once a customer has used it, GrubHub has their addresses, both street and email, at their fingertips. They then use this data to create location-specific contextual messages that convey the benefits of their service in a highly relevant way.

Story Time:
The weather in Chicago has taken a serious adjustment for this Southerner. And some days when it is snowy, or rainy, or just ugly outside, I have no intention of going out to get an appropriate dinner. GrubHub knows this about me — they realize (due to gathering my data) that it is more likely that I will order delivery when the weather is bad. To give the final push, they send an email like the one below. There’s no discount or particular incentive to purchase. Just an unspoken nudge that seems to say, “We get you. The weather sucks. Don’t feel guilty ordering too much sushi tonight.” And so I do.

GrubHub weather alert screen

All around, GrubHub uses the data they already have access to in order to create a contextualized, but non-intrusive, experience for their users.

Spotify

Spotify is a music-streaming service with millions of songs available. It offers the ability to create playlists for yourself, discover new music, share music with friends and listen on all your devices.

Story Time Number Two:
I listen to music constantly. I play it on my laptop at my apartment when I wake up in the morning, then put it on through headphones on my commute to work, and when I arrive at the office, I listen through my work computer.

As I leave the house in the morning, pull out my headphones, and open my Spotify app on my phone, it automatically prompts me with this simple message:

Spotify continue listening device handoff

When I click “Listen on this iPhone,” the music stops on my laptop and picks up in the exact same place on my phone, and I walk out the door. A similar process occurs when I get to work and start using my laptop again. Additionally, if a friend sends me a link to a new song via text on my phone while I’m listening on my computer, I can click it and it continues on my laptop rather than beginning on my phone. Spotify has a completely cross-platform approach that takes into consideration the context of use for the users, rather than just their device experience.

I also really love sharing music with my friends, especially those who live in other states. Spotify gives users the option to sync your Facebook friends so you can create collaborative playlists and share music when not in the same place. Through the use of readily available data like this, Spotify enhances users’ experiences. Overall, Spotify takes my device usage, the songs I listen to, and my Facebook friends, and combines this data seamlessly to create cross-platform syncing to provide an experience that no other streaming service offers.

Where to Start

Key initiatives you can undertake in order to begin delivering contextualized experiences for users are to look for simple ways to gather more data on your audience, and to discover new uses for the data you already have.

Here are some types of data you may be able to gather on your audience (or maybe already have) that can help you to get started.

  • Other websites your user has been on.
  • What products or section of a site your user has been looking at.
  • Where, geographically, your user is located.
  • Time of day your user interacts and duration of time on a site.

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