Can It Work?
What I have described above is a theoretical construct. At present, microns are in their infancy (we are just getting started with the idea at Netcore). Emails have generally been free from incentivisation; so, to imagine a loyalty program for microns can be considered as wishful thinking at this stage. Making one idea a success is hard enough, and here I am combining two big ideas together – microns and loyalty. So, can it really work? Let’s take them one at a time and then together.
We are being flooded with brand emails in our inbox – and all sorts of other messages in our other inboxes (SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger) and feeds (Twitter, Instagram, Snap, Pinterest). Brand messages have to compete in our inboxes with messages from family and friends, and the various groups and communities that we are part of. Attention is the prize that everyone wants and it is getting splintered into micro-moments where the mindset is more ignore and delete, rather than read and delight. It is in this world that microns can come like a breath of fresh air.
Emails come into our mailbox rather than us seeking them out and that is their superpower. With a focus on building a long-term relationship and a daily habit, some brands can become part of our life with the useful information that they provide. Microns are the best carrier for such nuggets – short and simple, clearly identified and useful. Made-for-mobile microns are the vehicle for brands to become friends. Friends are always welcome to connect with us; similarly, brands can use microns to make that connection via a subscription. Content will play a critical role for making microns work; too much promotional messaging and customers will opt-out or ignore. AMP offers a way to make microns interactive and open a whole new world of interesting use cases. That has been the thinking behind us creating MyToday, a made-for-microns publishing-subscription platform.
Adding elements of loyalty and gamification can make microns much more rewarding. Our attention has a lot of competition; if someone is willing to pay us for it, they have the potential to stand out. By disintermediating the media and ad platforms, brands can build a direct hotline to their customers, with the rewards working as magnets for visibility, engagement, actions and eventually, transactions.
While many brands have their own loyalty programs and could potentially add microns as another mechanism to earn additional points, a better approach would be to start with the customer’s inbox and craft a rewards program that incentivises all actions done within. This would necessarily have to then be a loyalty program that cuts across brands – that is what I have described in this series. Inbox attention is the prize; and there is no better inbox than the email inbox. Every other inbox has its limitations – SMS costs a lot and is limited to text, RCS is not widely available and dependent on the mobile operator, others like WhatsApp are controlled by a single entity who can alter the rules at will. The only mailbox free from monopoly control is the email inbox.
To summarise, there is a very interesting opportunity to build a loyalty program which monetises attention via microns by building a two-sided platform: connecting brands and consumers. It needs to have two components: the earn (how consumers can get the reward points) and the burn (how can they redeem these points). The innovative format of microns (short, informational, identified content) combined with a multi-brand loyalty program can lay the foundation for a big breakthrough in brand-customer engagement via the most ubiquitous identity that customers have – their email address. Such a program could, in short order, become the world’s largest loyalty program.
The entity that does it successfully can then open up the exciting world of rethinking the inbox itself for microns. Hotmail created a personal inbox for us in the late 1990s, Gmail made it hugely better in the first decade of the 21st century, and WhatsApp reinvented it for the mobile era in the 2010s. Imagine a new inbox for the 2020s that connects an individual’s dual identity (email address and mobile number) with a focus on brand messages rather than P2P and group messages. Microns can serve as the building block for this next-generation ‘gamified’ inbox. That’s our next story.