The Expanding Role of Marketing — and Artificial Intelligence — In Experience Business

The Expanding Role of Marketing — and Artificial Intelligence — In Experience Business

Disney Magic is alive and well. Take its MagicBands — the all-in-one wristband that connects us to our entire Walt Disney World vacation, letting us enter the parks, unlock our hotel rooms, and buy food and merchandise. Even more magical, or so it seems, is how Disney shares surprises personalized just for its visitor, such as an occasional photo of the family on the ride they just finished or awarding fast passes for the day. Those experiences might feel enchanted, but MagicBands actually use artificial intelligence (AI) with data compiled from all its visitors so Disney can provide memorable experiences along every point of our visit.

We eat it up, and keep coming back for more.

Influence like this no longer lies with the suave, silver-tongued marketer and glossy marketing brochures. In today’s experience business, every single person — from customer service reps to HR to the designers and developers behind products like the MagicBand — must play a role in creating experiences customers crave. In addition, in their customer-centric roles, everyone needs data and help understanding it, and they all must learn to leverage technology instead of hiding behind it.

Think Marketing Across Every Role
Marketing helps us define who our customers are and how to reach them. In today’s increasingly transparent society, we all need to know our customers and how to reach them. We then need to improve our processes and interactions to deliver an experience that builds loyalty and trust. Every employee must have the same goal: delivering compelling, personalized, and seamless experiences that enable long-time emotional connections and loyalty to the brand.

Every touchpoint a customer has should make it easier for them to do business with your company again, because people rarely buy things just once from a company. In that sense, everything ties back to marketing and every interaction is a reflection of the company and its brand. For example, the Disney product designers creating the MagicBands needed to think about how to make the product so it provides a memorable service, rather than intrudes on it. If you’re in the customer service department responding to visitors’ questions or complaints, you’re also a marketer — marketing a continued relationship.

Ensuring that everyone in your organization considers themselves a “marketer” will help you develop and drive more memorable experiences. Even better, those who can work together as a team to create these types of customer experiences in real time will have a competitive advantage and be able to win and retain customers for the long term. Disney’s success at this is one of multiple reasons fans travel cross country or even across the world year after year.

Automate What You Do Best with AI
Marketing at every level requires access to and understanding of data. Fortunately, there is an overwhelming amount of data today but we still struggle to understand it — especially with so much available. Artificial intelligence (AI) helps us fill the gap between the information we have and our ability to comprehend it. AI can help organize and analyze large amounts of data so it can present the right, actionable information to drive better customer experiences, much easier than you and your team could ever do on your own.

Consider these ways of using data and AI to create the experience business that will help you compete:

Start with that one thing that you think already makes your business great and see if you can’t use AI and automation to make it a little bit better. For example, if you’re Disney, build the MagicBands to improve the already amazing customer experience. Or if you’re a healthcare company, create an iPhone app that automates how you respond to and even treat your patients.

Don’t run from or bias the data. Look at the data for what it is because it will tell you more of what you need to know than you could ever imagine.

To make that possible, invest in a platform such as SAS or Microsoft BI that allows you to leverage data to get a much better understanding of your customers.

Consider the Pros and Cons of Data
While we need data to thrive as experience businesses, there are positive and negative results associated with how we use it. AI can be a lifesaver — literally. Smart watches, for example, can detect, with a high degree of accuracy, people who might have an irregular heartbeat, and immediately alert the individual or their doctor. Jawbone makes a product that connects to mattresses and measures the quality of your sleep and identifies your best sleep positions and sessions. And multiple research studies show how any number of free or inexpensive fitness apps help motivate us to exercise.

On the other hand, we also need to consider the potential pitfalls of using all the information available. What type of choices are we having technology make for us? Who is liable when something goes wrong, like when a pedestrian is struck and killed after walking in front of a self-driving car? While there aren’t currently any answers to these ethical questions, there need to be international standards and guidance that help regulate the ethics associated with AI, much like we have in the wireless industry.

In any case, as AI technology becomes less expensive and more prolific, experience businesses can provide consumers with even more actionable, personalized data that helps improve and even prolong life. None of this starts with technology, however. It starts with understanding your customers’ needs. That’s when you can start to deliver truly compelling experiences.

Focus on Experiences, Not Technology
To provide the seamless experiences that will delight customers, technology must be nearly invisible. Consumers just want the experience. For example, even if consumers know about advertising technology, they don’t love it because it feeds them more ads. They love it because it creates personalized, timely, and relevant ads that bring them value and show that your business understands who they are and what they need. That’s all they care about, not how AI or machine learning works. They love how we can connect them to people they love and to the things they like to do.

While you need to think about the value AI and other technology can create, first think about it from the human experience. Then, like Disney, you can look at all of the ways your technology can enable from the background the experience you want to deliver to your customers. We use smartphones or watches because they connect us to people, entertain us, and improve our health. We use a MagicBand because it makes our entire vacation seamless and personalized just for us. These are memorable experiences that keep us coming back for more.

Again, everyone in your organization needs to think like a marketer, with AI and data helping to create and improve the experiences your customers expect and demand. Otherwise, they’ll find the companies that will.

Read more ideas about the future of experience business from our #AdobeTT participants.

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