But losses mount for the home furnishings e-retailer that went public in October.
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Gazing into contextual marketing’s crystal ball
With technology rapidly changing, how retailers market themselves could change dramatically too. Some believe wireless and interactive TV advances will lead the way.
According to Eric Marcus, vice president, general counsel and director of e-business research and consulting with The Concours Group, the future of contextual marketing may be Orwellian. “Imagine you’re walking down the street with your cell phone or palm device on,” he says. “It flashes you a message ‘I know you’re a Bach lover. Two doors down from where you are right now, we have a sale on Bach CDs. We’ve got a great selection, why don’t you come on in?’” The next generation of these handheld devices will have global positioning capability and a broader band, possibly as wide as 3.5 giga-bytes (large enough to send an image). With this information and technology, the music store could make the sale price just to that one customer. “All of a sudden your retail advertising concept changes from having to come up with coupons for a mass media audience to being a market of one audience and a sale of one.”
This technology, Marcus says is available today, and could reach the marketplace during the next two years.
Michele Killman, vice president of marketing with Merchandising Avenue Inc. of San Diego, Calif., sees interactive TV as online marketing’s brave new world. “The future of contextual marketing is huge,” she says. “As the Internet and TV converge into interactive TV, consumers are going to buy products in a different way. If you’re watching the Home and Garden channel because your are interested in fixing up your house, you see a show that is featuring items that you would love to have. Instead of trying to figure out where to find those products, you will be able to interact with your TV and buy those products.” She also believes viewers watching popular prime-time shows will be able to purchase items used in the show. “If you are watching Ally McBeal and love the outfit she is wearing, you will be able to buy right then and there from your TV.”