How the Fourth Industrial Revolution is impacting brands and consumers. And how delivering great customer experiences is the right way to navigate through it.
OK. I get it. Everyone's using buzzwords at the moment. It's hard to keep up with the shifts in language and nuance. But one thing's clear. Our world is changing and we're living through a technical revolution that has already altered the way we live, work and relate to each other – and which is still unfolding.
The World Economic Form describes digital transformation as the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" and unlike anything, humankind has experienced before, differing from previous industrial revolutions because it’s developing at an exponential, rather than linear speed. So yes, it's changing us as consumers, but it's also driving a need for brands to do things differently and be in a position to adapt to change. Fast. Super-fast.
To stay relevant we, as marketers, need to fundamentally re-think customer experience. because digital has fundamentally changed the way people consume media, develop brand preferences, and choose products. Lines between brands and their customers are blurring too in a fascinating way. But there are other shifts happening, largely enabled by the device that has started to dominate our lives: smartphones.
Augmented and Virtual Reality are changing our shopping habits
We all know about AR and VR and - while they're not yet ubiquitous - they will find their way into our normal lives and they'll transform e-commerce, especially in fashion. For instance, customers will be able to use the technology to visualise what a pair of jeans will look like on them, what colour lipstick is right for them, and so on. In the US, where this type of technology is starting to gain traction, it has noticeably cut return rates for e-commerce fashion brands. That's a game-changer that will drive growth.
I'm not saying we need to rush out and buy VR headsets. What I am saying is that this is not a passing fad. It's a trend. We need to plan for it.
Voice-activated devices and software are changing how we search
More buzzwords. Ready? While Millennials express themselves through text, Generations Y and Z are doing so with pictures. By 2020, ComScore estimates that 50% of search queries will be voice-activated. This is going to have an enormous impact on brands' search marketing strategies, as consumers switch from typing keywords into Google or Bing to simply asking questions. It's why structured data is so important going forward.
Re-thinking customer experiences
These are just two examples I've used to illustrate my point. But what about the customer in all of this? As we enter this period of enormous change, it's also important to keep the broad approach as simple as possible. Here are three key elements for delivering outstanding customer experiences:
- We need to be there for our customers when they need us. And that doesn't mean offering them targeted products. We need to offer a personalised digital experience.
- Customers are leaving digital footprints every time they search or interact with brands and it goes without saying that these actions contain powerful insights. If they're harnessed correctly, they can be used to predict customer needs and inform marketing strategies. I would go one step further. It can also drive product development itself.
- Don't underestimate the power of storytelling. Data insights are key here too in terms of developing creatives that resonate, content that's entertaining, useful and meaningful to the right audience. Aside from the data component, it is also about great ideas, too.