THE BLOG
27/05/2014 07:05 BST | Updated 23/07/2014 06:59 BST

What is Ambient Ecommerce?

Ten or fifteen years ago, a wonderful new world was promised for digital mankind. Futurologists and preachers of the web, internet and digital media revolutions all confidently asserted that a paradise was beckoning in which advertising would finally, seamlessly and efficiently actually work.

Well, perhaps as with all great revolutions, the truth has turned out somewhat differently.

In days of old, department store owner John Wanamaker reputedly noted that half of his advertising spend is wasted but he did not know which half. It often seems that in today's digital world, nothing much has really changed and arguably may be even worse. The advertising formats of the online world frequently do not lend themselves to classical brand building and creating strong emotional bonds with consumers.

Even more disappointingly, where once advertising could actually complement a viewing experience and even impact culture - think Just Do It, Think Different, Open Happiness etc. - many of the formats of today's digital world simply irritate consumers. Online advertising is now frequently seen as truly invasive, irrelevant and annoying to a spectrum of emotions. It frankly often fails to efficiently drive commerce nor builds emotional bonds.

Far from living in a world free of commercial interruption, or a utopia in which ads complement the content they sit alongside, we instead have a suboptimal reality of ineffective ads and irrelevant messages. The current situation works for no one: publishers see revenues drop; consumers become increasingly irritated; advertisers watch engagement with ads fall; and brands struggle to build emotional engagement.

The entire commercial model of the web is predicated upon productive advertising income: when many consumers hate ads, and some even move to block them completely, then the digital publishing and advertising industries are in serious difficulty.

We need to change things and quickly. Digital media should be catalyzing consumer engagement. Commercial messaging should complement content. Online advertising should take into account the emotional and intellectual engagement of each consumer in real time, presenting only contextually relevant promotions driven from the consumer's choice of published content.

This all requires a radically different form of digital intelligence than currently employed by the demographic and cookie-based systems of today.

Ambient ecommerce is a new paradigm. Using sophisticated artificial intelligence that is highly sensitive to the content each consumer is actually viewing, ambient ecommerce technology dynamically only offers up product and brand messages that are contextually relevant. This goes far beyond naive keyword-based matching of ads to content, since instead the entire content of each web page - the ambient environment - is used to derive the automatic choice of advertising. The breakthrough is evidenced by engagement: an increase of up to 50 times in the click through rates compared to traditional approaches.

Consumers benefit from interesting ad placements that complement what they are reading. Publishers no longer have distracting ads detracting from their user's experience. Advertisers benefit from each of their ads being best placed alongside the right content. Retailers benefit from product placements into the best web context, including their products from the "long tail" of their catalog. Brands see greater engagement by qualified consumers who clearly have an affinity with the brand.

Furthermore, since ambient ecommerce is driven purely by published content, it does not depend on tracking personally identifiable information. Consumers have the peace of mind that their privacy can be protected.

History is full of rich promises that take time to materialize. With ambient commerce, the promise of the internet based advertising revolution may have finally arrived.