For brands to stay relevant in this ever-changing world, they need to consider how emerging technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), wearables, and the Internet of Things (IoT), can provide a pathway to delivering meaningful customer experiences.
This is the conclusion of Adobe’s “The Future Of Experience” report (PDF) launched at the Cross-Channel Marketing Forum in London this week. The study, in collaboration with Goldsmiths University of London, was presented by Dr Chris Brauer, who identified five areas that brands need to consider as they create experiences using these new technologies, which he said provide a “pathway to delivering meaningful experiences.”
“Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes … however, these new technologies can be transformative, opening up opportunities to be empathetic,” Dr Brauer said. New technologies can help humanise rather than dehumanise the relationship between technology and consumers, by bringing us closer to others and ourselves. The immersive experiences delivered by virtual reality, for example, offer the potential for brands to deeply connect with consumers via content, but their empathy levels will need to be set to “high” when engaging in these private environments. The research suggests that “Empathetic technology is an incredibly powerful construct, which has the ability to significantly transform both our lives and society.”
We tend to assume that any discussion about privacy relates to personal data. However, technologies such as VR and wearables will increasingly allow us to filter out the noise and distractions within both the offline and online world. Over half (52%) of those surveyed agreed that a good digital experience would enable them to use technology to not only connect to the world, but also to disconnect from it. As brands increasingly look to insert themselves in every part of the customer journey, consumers are looking for ways to switch off. However, these technologies and experiences have the ability to facilitate “me time,” where consumers experience private moments that contribute to their personal wellbeing and happiness, and also help filter out irrelevant information. As Adobe EMEA marketing director John Watton pointed out, “It’s all about the value exchange and the transparency around that—give an individual a valuable experience where they understand what is being taken and given back, exceed their expectations, and be consistent, and the issues around privacy will go away.”
Technology can provide valuable experiences for consumers, but only if we teach them to deliver on our everyday needs. The study found that people were excited about the possibilities that AI applications presented and recognised the reciprocal nature of the relationship. Over half (52%) of the survey respondents said they would be happy to help “teach” a machine if the feedback improved their lives and “delivered on our objectives and goals.” This, Dr Brauer said, will “require a fluid interface between humans and the technology, which will be constantly transforming and reshaping, based on the actions of the person and the technology.”
Although technologies such as AI and IoT offer the potential to make our lives easier, the study found that brands rarely delivered a straightforward or seamless experience that customers expected. This disconnect is clear within the retail environment—where 35% of adults prefer making transactions in person, 30% via a device, while 32% have no preference. As Dr Brauer pointed out, “People still want the human connection. These new technologies allow this, but the technology needs to disappear and become the facilitator of human contact.” However, these emerging technologies can be used to create experiences that act as a catalyst for imaginative thoughts as well as ignite the feeling of possibility within people. But businesses need to become more adaptable in how they integrate these technologies to deliver against these needs.
Emerging technologies can be used to create memorable experiences that aid discovery and fuel our interests and imagination. However, in our drive to deliver a unique and personalised customer experience, we may remove the opportunity for serendipity—where we discover the unexpected, but are delighted by the experience. In fact, almost two thirds (64%) of participants claimed that digital experience was invaluable in helping them discover new things that they liked and loved. These serendipitous moments are key in helping build authenticity and, as a result, trust in their brand. Ultimately, brands need to develop a balanced approach between personalisation and delivering these moments of discovery to deliver “truly surprising and remarkable experiences.”