The database integration rainbow: What Priceline has figured out

The next step in mobile magic starts with cross-comparing all of the data already collected

The next step in mobile marketing will involve IT starting to leverage all — or at least most — of the datapoints mobile already collects and making use of that integrated data.

priceline Priceline

Consider navigation systems and meaningful restaurant recommendations. To a marketer, a recommendation's value is derived from how often that recommendation is followed. The nav system knows what time the consumer often eats (either through directly asking when a profile was created or by observing the typical times the unit goes to restaurants), where she lives and where she is right now. The same techniques (survey when set up and observation of restaurants driven to) can also indicate her food preferences.

Armed with all of that data, the nav could make some extremely persuasive recommendations. First, it knows that a driver is much more likely to accept restaurant recommendations when she is more than 50 miles from areas she knows well (home and work, typically). If it waits to make a recommendation until the driver is more than 50 miles from comfort points and if the system further waits until the vehicle is still driving 30 minutes past dinner time — especially if it knows that the destination is more than two hours away — it's geared for an effective pitch. "Hungry for dinner? There's a Hungarian restaurant that is right now four minutes from here and they are offering you 35% off its best goulash. Shall I direct you there?"

All of that becomes possible when mobile CPUs start crunching away on combining and extrapolating facts from many existing databases. Although not yet at that level, Priceline.com on Wednesday (June 3) started to inch in that direction.

What Priceline rolled out was an Android app for mobile watches, one that factors in a hotel a traveler is staying in — courtesy of Priceline, presumably — and specific kinds of retailers selling "travel goods," the kinds of items that travelers tend to forget or deliberately leave home, figuring they can purchase them locally. These are items such as toiletries, chargers, extension cords and umbrellas.

"The app creates a geo-fence around the hotel's latitude/longitude. The Wear app is triggered when the user enters the geo-fence radius, and the app will display a map of local places (e.g., convenience stores, ATMs, pharmacies) where spontaneous travelers can pick up items they may have forgotten," said a statement from Priceline.

Priceline's approach is a good one — and I'm confident that the 11 people who end up using an Android watch routinely will appreciate it — but it's a baby step. How about integrating Amazon's same-day delivery to the hotel? Maybe allowing an in-app mobile payment to be made through the watch, so that the pharmacy can deliver the item to the front desk and have it already paid (tip, too), with a bellhop completing the delivery? Are coupons and discounts included as well?

But conceding the wisdom behind the cliché "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," Priceline is at least trying. And the canned quote attributed in the statement to Princeline Chief Product Officer John Caine is encouraging, in that someone at Priceline seems to really get it: "Contextual information is the true benefit of wearable technology. Consumers want to connect with key services at the right time and in the right place. Wearable technology allows apps to be helpful and unobtrusive serving as a companion to travelers and other apps rather than a replicate of the phone app."

This idea, though, shouldn't be limited to watches. In fact, as we move further away from the watch — moving down from watches/wearables to smartphones, tablets, desktops, kiosks and, yes, even in-store associate interactions — the need and the benefits from layering data from multiple sources soar. Envision the associate whose app alerts him to an approaching customer, quickly summarizing his recent online activity on that retailer's site. Then it displays that shopper's purchase history.

He notices that the user was investigating some accessories for an older iPhone. That tells him to make sure to ask about cord interfaces, reminding him that a Lightning cord either won't work or will need an adapter — something he might have never thought to ask.

Then again, as long as mobile devices never access all of their data, the chances of them taking over the planet and enslaving humans is small. Hence, the strategy of most retailers today has an upside.

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