Businesses and people have taken the internal processes from one channel and mapped them onto a screen for someone else to look at and interact with.
To date, the rise of mobile and the user experience feedback loop haven’t significantly challenged that approach. It’s worked very well thus far. Clients gain value, new customers abound and stock has been shifted. Win, win, win.
All very responsible, all very future proof, all very consumer friendly. But actually, current research tells us otherwise. Screens are a dying interface.
Wearables famously turned out to be a dead end, despite the grumbles of Apple Watch enthusiasts. There is a big change afoot and it doesn’t involve any interaction with your 13”, 9” and 5” screen real estate. In fact, it likely doesn’t involve your customer interacting with you at all.
Change is coming faster than you think
So how effective will your brochure-ware and transactional sites be when they are working with a home automation system? “Hey Alexa, where’s good to go on holiday?” may not be a purchase enquiry many outside of certain Seattle e-commerce giants are truly thinking about, but this change is coming and it’s coming faster than you think.
As far back as December 2015, the Ericsson ConsumerLab study predicted a shorter than five year window for the smartphone as the dominant digital channel.
According to Gartner, by 2019, 20% of user interactions with smartphones will take place off-screen, or in other words, via digital assistants like Siri and Cortana.
So how will your organisation meet the ‘no-bile’ challenge? How will you reach customers away from the screen, or those buffered by AI actors and automation?
A brand new channel
This is not simply a move away from digital to voice driven interaction, nor is it a return to the call centre or even to radio advertising.
It is is a near immediate product evaluation based on available data, consumed by vast, statistically driven AI models and presented to customers through any conceivable channel, as soon as they identify the need – or even before they are conscious of that need existing.
To access this market, in even the simplest ways, your product and offer data must be accessible to AI and home automation systems. Your Google Nest won’t just be keeping the home safe and efficient, it will be acting as the consumer’s agent.
You can’t price it the same way
When we as humans interact with an e-commerce platform we make choices about products and offerings using a mixture of logic and emotion. Price, previous experiences and the brand all impact our buying ‘moment’.
>See also: How to drive calls from mobile marketing
To Alexa, it’s all immaterial. She may know what your preference in coffee brands might be, but for the buying moment, she’s essentially a pitiless machine, selecting purely on need and choosing the best deals from millions of sites. She doesn’t have viewer inertia and she is a lot harder to gamify.
To open Alexa’s wallet, you have to understand your customer and your products in a new way, purely driven by data and targeted according to a far more granular segmentation of customer, location and time. Alexa can afford to wait up until 4am for the best deal and she doesn’t care about your advertising.
Some forms of purchasing aren’t a pleasure. Insurance, finance products, non-perishables and the like are essentially much the same no matter where and how you buy them.
Consider buying a tin of soup for lunch; would you really be interested in the shop it was bought from and the experience you had buying it? Or would you be more concerned with the flavour?
Customers buy car insurance from the aggregator site with the best customer experience, and buy books from somewhere they don’t have to retype credit card details every time they want to buy something.
In both cases, the commoditised product is used to drag the customer into an emotional scenario and allow the possibility of upselling or cross selling, and the increased margins they bring.
No current customer experience is ready to do that when it’s Alexa or Google shopping on the customer’s behalf. Yet already customers are asking for commodities that way, and, “OK Google, where’s the nearest petrol station”, is just the start.
This isn’t necessarily a shift where the early adopters will win without a fight. The patterns of customer behaviour in the post-screen age are not yet understood; the few academic and R&D driven studies available don’t offer much in the way of a coherent view as to how this will work best.
It’s clear that vastly improved customer segmentation, analytics and internal Business Intelligence will be needed to support this shift, and that investing in these areas is a workable strategy for the current world of mixed screen sizes and legacy channels.
It may be that the future authors of content will have to be closer to actors than graphic designers. The idea of customer experience becoming data driven performance ‘art’ to win over the customer’s house AI is no longer a far-fetched idea.
Perhaps organisations should ask themselves whether they are the data performance artists in their market.
Sourced by Ed Fowler, VP and head of digital transformation EMEA, VirtusaPolaris