Over the past couple of months, a handful of companies have announced their intentions to use RSS (what is RSS?) technology to more effectively communicate with their customers.
For example, one such company, Coravue, has announced that their new offering "delivers tailored marketing messages to the desktop." A much-hyped concept for sure, and a goldmine if it works. But can RSS help bridge the gap to customers more effectively than existing methods such as email and newsletters, not to mention good old-fashioned direct marketing?
In some cases, the answer is yes. One particular application that springs to mind is the natural synergy between the timely dissemination of information that RSS enables and the emergence of the on-demand software deployment model. In the on-demand world, some solution providers choose the model of incremental, ongoing implementation of new functionality in their on-demand systems. This is great for customers, as new features are being implemented all the time. But how does a company let all the users of the system know about these new features as they become available? A vendor-specific RSS feed would allow a solution provider to instantly communicate new features, functionality, and links to documentation to all users as soon as the code is migrated to production. Massive, timely, laser-focused publishing at zero cost is a good thing. But couldn’t we do the same thing with email?
Well, sure. But, in addition to being perfectly targeted, RSS feeds do not have an issue with spam. Since an RSS feed is, by definition, "opt-in" and the publisher controls the channel of communication, spam is non-existent. Although there are some companies looking to inject ads into RSS feeds, I have a feeling we’re still a year or two away from widespread implementation of this practice.
Despite some technical challenges with RSS (e.g. the potential for PointCast-like bandwidth abuse), the most notable challenge right now is visibility of the technology to the end-user. Because of that, I think the solution providers (and information providers, particularly in the form of blogs) are going to be pushing a string for a while. While the publishing tools make it trivial to publish RSS feeds (see that little "Syndicate this site" link over there?), it is still a bit of an effort to receive RSS feeds. One needs to get an RSS reader* and configure it. Until the RSS readers are ubiquitous and the killer app from the customer side is found, the uptake will continue to be mostly limited to early adopters.
Some interesting possibilies here. Any stories of folks using RSS feeds to connect with customers in this way?