Minority Report, the sci-fi blockbuster, came out more than 13 years ago. And yet its tech-enriched vision of the future is beginning to look eerily prescient -- at least when it comes to advertising.
Take the scene in which Tom Cruise's John Anderton enters the Gap. Superficially, the store looks familiar: there's the same squeaky clean, well-lit aesthetic, the stacks of neatly folded t-shirts and blue jeans and the elevator music. But as shoppers stream in they are greeted by a friendly voice – not from a flesh-and-blood sales person, but from a digitized young woman who knows their entire shopping histories: "Hey Miss Belfor, did you come back for another pair of those chammy lace-ups?"
In the Minority Report universe, all ads are similarly personalized. In a memorable scene, Anderton walks through a screen-lined lobby, and is bombarded by digital ads that all call out to him by name.
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We're headed in this general direction, according to Jeff Malmad, the managing director and head of mobile at Mindshare North America, a marketing company. As brands are able to collect increasingly detailed data from wearable and connected devices, "your shopping experience or your travel experience could be tailored so that the world around you bends to your likes and interests."
This is already happening, to an extent. Push notifications, which can be delivered to a variety of wearables as well as mobile, use exact GPS-information to serve consumers relevant content. When done right, they can add value to shoppers' in-store experiences by highlighting sales, deals or items that would have previously gone unnoticed.
Malmad predicts that as wearable technology improves, the available data will continue to 'bend' our physical environments and experiences in increasingly subtle and sophisticated ways. "Biometric data is going to help us live better lives," he says.
For example: Say it's Friday afternoon, and you're rushing out of the office on your way to a long weekend vacation. You're stressed out because you're running late. Your smartwatch picks up indications of this -- via your elevated heart rate and rising skin temperature -- and "so by the time you get to your car, it's already started, the air conditioning is adjusted [to the correct temperature], your music is playing."
This ability, for the environment to shift in response to our individual data, "is on the horizon," says Malmad. This is big news for brands, which can theoretically apply a similar layer of customization to brick-and-mortar commerce. A department store could access a consumer's music preferences, favorited styles, purchase history and any number of additional data points culled from his or her wearable and connected devices, in order to create a seamlessly individualized shopping experience.
"When I walk into that store my playlist could be running in the background, different lights could shine on clothing that will likely interest me, or that I've already searched for in that app," says Malmad. What was a generic walkthrough becomes "much better and more fluid." Again, the world 'bends.'
Ultimately, Malmad believes that brands, using mobile and wearable data, will personalize, curate and footnote the entire world. Say you are driving down a stretch of unmarked highway. Having opted-in to receive notifications from a Land Rover discovery sport app, your smart watch alerts you that you are passing a network of gorgeous off road trails. The notification includes information about altitude, terrain and showcases views from the trail peaks. Without the app, you would have driven by, oblivious.
It's not quite Minority Report – "we don't want to go in that direction," says Malmad, emphasizing that all of these experiences will be opt-in. But more importantly, his version of the future replaces the explicit ads of Minority Report with subtlety integrated, if just as personalized, 'brand experiences' that turn the physical world into a myriad of curated, branded and bendable realities tailored to fit our unique preferences.