TECH TALK: The Emerging Internet: From Advertising to Invertising

Advertising has become the primary business model on the consumer Internet. Even though display advertising has been around since the early days of the Internet, it is search-linked and context-linked advertising that is now dominant. Whichever way we look at it, companies pay to be in front of users on the Internet. Whether we are surfing content sites or searching for things, advertisers use a mix of text and banner ads to attract our attention. The Internet has made advertising campaigns easy to roll out for a large number of businesses all one needs is a landing page where users click to and a credit card to pay for anything starting at a few dollars. Advertisers are also able to track the clickthroughs thus enabling them to measure the response to their ads. In other words, the Internet has brought efficiency and metrics to advertising.

There will be two issues as the game shifts from Search and the Reference Web on the PC to Subscriptions and the Live Web on the mobile. First, the small screen of the mobile is not conducive to show a lot of advertising content will need to be pushed down to accommodate ads (theres no space on the side), and users may not take too kindly to that. Second, much of the current advertising on the Internet is focused on lead-generation. That is good when users can browse for more information and fill up a form or complete a transaction. The small screen of the mobile will not lend itself well to both at least for the foreseeable future.

On the mobile, as greater control shifts to the user, advertising will need to be re-thought as invertising advertising that becomes information and which the users invite into their lives. To understand this a little better, let us look at the five states of customers.

First, there are existing customers that a business has. These are the entire universe of customers who have done at least one transaction with the business. Second, there are loyal customers, who do repeat business and thus are the more profitable ones. Third, there are the future customers the ones who have yet to do a transaction and whom the business is interested in targeting. They can also be thought of as prospects. Fourth, they are former customers or a competitors customers, who have either exited the relationship with the business or are doing business with a competitor. (There may be some overlap between the third and fourth categories.)

Advertising helps businesses build brand, retain existing customers, and convert prospects into customers. Invertising helps build relationships with existing customers to make them into profitable, loyal customers and prevent them from becoming former customers. In fact, invertising can also help in educating future customers to initiate a business relationship.

So far, businesses have not had the means to do invertising and build relationships. This is where the mobile comes in with its reach, its ability to handle subscriptions and provide new content to users as soon as it is published. Brands and businesses can encourage users to subscribe to content channels published by them think of these as infostreams. Users can subscribe to these infostreams by simply sending an SMS from their mobiles a capability available on every mobile. To unsubscribe, users can send yet another SMS. This ability to start and stop infostreams shifts control to the users and ensures a spam-free environment.

Think, for a moment, about the relationships one would like to have wherein we are as interested in knowing whats new as the business as in letting us know. The neighbourhood kirana store, the bookshop, the multiplex, the phone manufacturers, deals from the supermarkets these will form the anchor for the invertising-centric business model of the Live Web. They will all be willing to pay a relationship fee to maintain an open communication channel to customers.

Tomorrow: The Next Google

TECH TALK The Emerging Internet+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.