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Marketing technology for building customer experience

Technology, particularly in marketing is advancing at a lightening speed, which cannot be ignored by the marketers who are struggling between the traditional and contemporary approach. Customer experience is a key driver of customer satisfaction and loyalty for marketers and this too is now highly influenced by over indulgence to technology by consumers across the globe. As per the recent survey by Facebook, substandard brand experience is the predominant reason for switching brand loyalty for millennials. This demonstrates how important is customer experience and brand can have the edge over competitions by optimization of these interactions with the help of technology. Before we get into the technology to enable the right customer experience, let us understand the true meaning of customer experience.

Customer experience is the interaction a customer has with an organization. It is the representation of the relationship between a business and its customers; an end-to-end concept, from how customers discover the brand and make contact to when make purchase or promote the brand. As per my understanding it’s the sum total of every communication touch point with the customers and prospects, as the foundation for a number of customer decisions. Positive customer experiences require the understanding of entire customer journey, as well as taking a customer centric approach to understand their needs. Cultivating effective customer experiences is an ongoing process, one that has to be constantly refined to keep up with the dynamic demands of the new age customers. Technology and data with right actionable insights will be key to this.

Marketers have spent most of the past couple of years working on perfecting their ability to understand the customers through personalization. Earlier CIOs owned the technology piece and were responsible for the customer experience. But while moderating the session on marketing technology at World Brand Congress 2016 in Kuala Lumpur this month, I got agreed whole heartedly to my panelists Eric Wong, Marketing Director IBM Malaysia, David Toh, Marketing Director AVEVA Asia and Kenenth Yu, CEO SpurPress that CMOs own the customer experience and marketers believe they will own the end-to-end customer experience by 2020. My co-panelists advocated that with additional budget for marketing technology marketers will drive engagement, own customer experience and accountable for revenue.

Equipped with digital technologies and social media platforms, consumers across the globe rapidly and inexpensively compare products, services and ideas. Most important they share the brand experience with each other (among their peer group) through reviews, ratings and various other means. With all of this available choices, brands have never been more important and more easily tuned out by the customers. While making the transition to build capabilities of owning the customer experience across multiple platforms and context, marketers will require the comprehensive understanding of the customers, where the context emerges from a synthesis of data, technology and analysis of human behavior. Marketing has become technology and intense data-driven discipline in highly digitized sectors like media & entertainment, automotive, travel and tourism, education and consumer packaged goods.

Let us discuss some incredibly disruptive technologies that have the potential to completely revolutionize the marketing landscape and transform the way brands interact with the web and consumers, with each other. Certain new technologies which are radical in nature until now we have only seen the prototypes in global conferences like MWC or MarTech are starting to emerge in the market place. Let us have look at some of these technologies.

– Augmented Reality (AR)
– Virtual Reality (VR)
– Wearable Smart Devices
– Voice Recognition
– 4K & 5K Screen Technology
– Motion/Gesture Control
– The Internet of Things (IoT)

Some of my fellow marketers may argue that in comparison to other significant technology advancements like nanotechnology and robotics, the above are not that radical. But if we focus closely on marketing as the domain, then each one is capable of bringing disruption in its own way. Let us discuss some of them in details.

Augmented Reality
For bringing in disruption marketers in general are looking up to this technology. This is where a computer generated image is superimposed into the real world through a screen or a lens. Microsoft is betting big on it and believes that AR represents the future of computing. Augmented reality opens up an endless set of possibilities for marketers and needs to be fully explored in the coming time. It has the ability to turn the real world environment into a giant video game and essentially opens up the potential for brands to advertise anywhere they want, in a personalized, immersive and geo-specific way. This brings incredible amount of opportunities for the marketers.

Virtual Reality
In 2014, a tech startup named Oculus VR was acquired by Facebook and it raised eyebrows across that why the world’s biggest social network acquired a company that makes VR headsets named Rift. Many of my peers in India and other geographies said Facebook paid an unreasonable amount for a gaming stuff which is not having any substance but a fad. This was Facebook’s foray into Virtual Commerce, the next level to ecommerce. Just think of getting into a shopping center inside the airport where you can get up close and personal to stuffs that you want to buy. Imagine the Keanu Reeves starrer movie series ‘Matrix’, one will be able to sit down and view the home that is aspired to be owned before the actual visit of the real home, one can have the experience of the car that is in the consideration set. For example the recent VR campaign conducted by Tata Motors for the launch of their car Tiago in the major cities of India. This was meticulously planned with the major daily newspapers like Times of India and others, wherein the readers of the newspaper were provided with VR Boxes made of cardboards. This is the first virtual reality headsets that reached Indian masses. Though the image quality of the free Tiago VF headsets is nowhere near to what Google Cardboard or Gear VR offer, but it surely provided a peak into the future of customer engagement to marketers and masses that knew little about it before.

Virtual reality offers its users the opportunity to enjoy a fully immersive brand experience. The switched on marketers must already be anticipating at the prospect of providing fully engaging marketing experiences as they will revolutionize the approach to customer experience. The possibilities are endless and the amazing thing about VR is, consumers will want and will demand to interact with these awesome experiences, providing the marketers with the perfect opportunity for incredible brand and product exposure. Marketing elevated to the next level!

Wearable Devices
We are noticing fitness devices and smart watches are capturing a great deal of attention in the media and from the masses. And iWatch is leading this segment in a very short time span. Wearable devices are changing the way we interact with our technology support. They represent a shift in consumer acceptance of smart technology in a way that suggests a medium getting into existence for a higher level of personal data collection and technological integration. As we realize wearing a device is very different than carrying one. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the wearable technology, can it be something like wearable devices will reduce the demand for smartphones like what tablets are doing for laptops and desktops currently.

Voice Recognition
Its not all about Siri from Apple, Google Voice or Cortana from Microsoft – which are less than perfect and gives not so good experience in a country like India. There are developments happening at faster pace and significant improvements are being seen in Siri and Google Voice in last couple of months. With the improvements in technology and the transformation it will bring in the way we interact, voice recognition will change the way we interact with our various devices and the web. The global search giant Google believes that people will be speaking their search queries in the near future as opposed to typing the queries. Its betting big on the VR (Voice Recognition) to the point where it has made big changes to their search algorithm to give precedence to conversational keyword strings. Voice recognition is a bigger deal than what we as marketers think and integrated with Virtual Reality, it can give ultimate brand experience to consumers and help the marketers build exceptional customer experience.

Internet of Things (IoT)
This is about everyday objects that have a certain level of network connectivity which are able to send and receive data. For example smart refrigerator, smart ACs and even smart toilets; with the use of RFID and NFC technology a refrigerator could potentially know everything one currently have in it, and as it start running out of certain items, it could automatically populate a shopping list for the owner, either sending the list to the owner’s smartphone when a superstore shopping is required or it can go a level further by ordering on behalf of the user. Recently Panasonic has launched the intelligent ACs which one can control from anywhere through the smartphone and switch on and switch off via SMS and adjust the room temperature as per the requirement. These some of the very basic IoT integration to mention for the product marketers. But on the broader level it will bring in tremendous opportunities for marketers while planning for customer experience.

Along with the above mentioned technologies, many more emerging technology developments have already started beginning to move beyond the traditional eye-on-the-screen relationships that we all with have with the web and other interfaces. This will have significant implications to the current thinking about the state of marketing. When combined, these technology integrations with marketing domain will cause profound and aggressive transitions; which may have a greater level of integration and fluidity with consumers’ daily lives.

And marketers will be confident and upbeat while creating incredible consumer experiences when they combine these technologies with their marketing initiatives. With the broader acceptance of these technologies among consumers, marketers will produce robust experiences for brands and optimize the deliverables.

Aroon Kumar

GM-Global Marketing, CRICHQ