Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kynetx Lets Marketers Customize User Experience Across Web Sites

Summary: Kynetx lets marketers enhance and coordinate user experience across multiple Web sites. It’s so different from site-based Web personalization that the possibilities can be hard to grasp. But I think they’re substantial.

The classic view of online anonymity is the 1993 New Yorker cartoon, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Today, we realize that our online identities are not as private as they then seemed. But from a marketer’s viewpoint, it’s still maddeningly difficult to recognize online visitors and interact with them as individuals.

The challenge is usually focused on the marketer’s own Web site: when people visit, how can I identify them? But, ideally, marketers would track their customers across all Web sites and interject themselves when appropriate. Ad networks already do this to some extent, using third party cookies to coordinate the messages shown to each individual on different sites. But this doesn’t help marketers who want an active role in managing the user’s experience.

Kynetx offers a more powerful alternative. It installs a browser extension that can send data to an externally-hosted rules engine which returns JavaScript snippets that enhance the current Web page. The data describes the rules to execute and the current context, such as the Web page being viewed. It could potentially include personal information the user has chosen to share, although current Kynetx applications do not.

A concrete example would surely help. One Kynetx application is downloaded by members of the AAA automobile club. When users do a search on Google or other major sites, the application calls the Kynetx rules engine which checks a list of vendors who offer AAA discounts and flags them within the search results. No personal data is shared, yet AAA’s marketers deliver a customized experience that reminds members of their benefits and supports AAA’s partners.

Kynetx applications can also move data from one Web site to another, for example by capturing data and using it fill in a form or execute an API call.

The underlying technology for most Kynetx applications includes “Information Cards”, an open standard for digital identity management supported by Microsoft, Oracle, Google, PayPal and others. The general idea is that people can have different “cards” with different information for different purposes, allowing them to control (and, presumably, minimize) the amount of information they provide in each context. See the Information Card Foundation Web site for details.

In the case of Kynetx, Information Cards also minimize user effort, since the Kynetx browser extension must be installed only once, and then new applications can be added simply by loading a new Information Card. All the heavy lifting is done by the Kynetx rules engine, which resides on a central server accessed over the Internet. In addition to reducing the burden on the user’s computer, this makes updates easy since any changes are made on the server and go into effect without being deployed to user systems.

Development effort is further reduced because each Kynetx application runs on major browsers and operating systems without customization. Rules are written in a Kynetx-developed language with special features for context management. I was particularly pleased to see support for A/B tests, including facilities to randomly select different actions, capture success or failure, and report on results. Applications can run on personal computers, smartphones, or any other Web-enabled device.

Marketers who don’t want to use Information Cards can distribute applications through other “endpoints” including browser toolbars, cookies, wireless proxy servers (for example, in a coffee shop), or bookmarklets . All that’s required is something that can identify a user, capture permissions, and call the Kynetx server.

Kynetx was founded in 2007 and currently is used in more than 700 applications from about 250 developers. Although the company does some application development, its primary business is selling execution on its platform, at rates from $.24 to $1.60 per thousand ruleset evaluations.

I’m frankly intrigued by the possibilities of Kynetx, which seems to open a direct channel onto users’ desktops, bypassing traditional Web advertising. It does require a preexisting relationship with the user, but gaining user permission is fast becoming a condition for most online interactions. Kynetx makes it easier to gain this permission by offering something of value in return. Even more important, it should help marketers to strengthen existing relationships by repeatedly demonstrating value after an application is installed.

1 comment:

Erin said...

I love the picture. It made me lol. Yeah in today's technology who knows everyone?

Marketing Automation