Are You Ready for Contextual Discovery?

For most of our recent digital lives, when you or your customers want to find something – information, directions, news, products, etc. – you have “searched” for it. You go to Google, you type something in, and you go about your day. Think of this as “pulling” – you’re pulling the information you need out of the web.

We are very rapidly moving towards a push model of information discovery, however, and the impacts on businesses (and citizens, of course) could not be more profound.

Within the next 1-3 years, Google, Apple, and Amazon will use devices and databases to learn what individuals want, like and need and predictively provide that information to them. Google is already doing this in a limited way with their Google Now service. Others are racing to catch up.

The goal for Google, et. al. is to deliver to the user the right information at the right time, in the right context.

Robert Scoble has written a terrific book about contextual discovery. In the video included above, he talks with Mark Johnson, the CEO of news aggregator Zite. Ostensibly, the 50-minute video is about the future of news. But I’m sharing this video because the two of them spend a lot of time talking about the future of contextual discovery. If you are a business owner, I think you can watch this video and see dozens of ways that your business could provide information and context to potential and existing customers.

So think of this as a seed to help you begin thinking about laying the groundwork.

But more practically, the business takeaway from this video is that you should be giving Google as much, high-quality information as you can. This is already important, as Google already dominates search – the pull sector. But if, in fact, they are working on a ‘contextual operating system’ for their wearable devices (like the past and future Google Glass), then you need to be sure to be ready to provide them with the push part of the information too.

So right now? Make sure you invest in, build out appropriate listing pages for Google, Bing, Yelp, etc. Even if you don’t have a lot of customers there, the more high-quality information you can give to companies – (esp. Google) – including information that anticipates context of your customer, the more ahead of the game you will be.

And if nothing else, keep your ear tuned to this area of development. Wearable and contextually-sensitive devices like Apple Watch, Microsoft Band, Google Glass, etc have the potential to revolutionize how we all interact with our world.


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