Six Experience Business Breakthroughs Marketers Can Use Now
The only humans in Japan’s Henn-na Hotel are guests, served by a fully functional, beeping, blinking, rolling staff. They are greeted by multi-lingual robots at check-in. A robotic arm hands off luggage to a porter robot for delivery to guest rooms and facial-recognition technology registers guests in the hotel’s system.
Clearly, the Experience Era is here. As the Henn-na Hotel illustrates, cutting-edge technology creates an environment in which customer demands are ever shifting and rising. To deliver competitive customer experiences, brands must leverage the latest developments. With that in mind, here are six trend and technology breakthroughs that savvy marketers will see soon — if they haven’t already — and how to leverage them to stay ahead in the experience era.
Breakthrough #1 — internal disruption.
Disruption is inevitable for experience businesses. Brands can either disrupt themselves in a controlled environment or be disrupted from without, therefore, losing control. For example, consumers now prefer to access services instead of own products. Experiences, not products, will make or break brands’ bottom lines — customers won’t stick around until a company’s experience catches up to its competitors. So, to stay ahead, the leaders of tomorrow are disrupting from within today, preparing to embrace constant innovation to meet shifting customer expectations.
- Review your brand promise and align business practices and offerings with that promise. Empower your team with the skills and tools to deliver on your mission to customers at all times.
- Create and use a unified platform to manage customer profiles, integrating new channels and technologies as they emerge.
- Identify your customer segments and pinpoint the most loyal and valuable customers. Use predictive and prescriptive toolsets to understand their loyalty and shifting expectations, then apply that knowledge to craft delightful customer experiences.
Breakthrough #2 — experience era advertising.
Mobile — and declining attention spans — are throwing traditional advertising plans out the window. The Adobe Price Index puts general inflation at 2 percent. In contrast, video-ad spend is up 13 percent year over year. Mobile search cost per 1000 clicks is up 11 percent year over year. Spend for search increased 42 percent, but brands only received an 11 percent increase in traffic as a result of their investment. Across all advertising categories, costs are rising at five times the rate of inflation or more, while returns are diminishing.
Marketers can’t keep up with that rate of increase. Many brands work with flat ad budgets and will have to prioritize what works and focus their spend. Optimization will be the new status quo for allocating ad dollars.
- Focus on the right metrics. Conversion rate and ad clicks don’t indicate results. Sales indicate success.
- Track the customer journey and learn the context. Target customers based on their contexts to deliver personalized experiences that delight and engage.
- Produce and leverage earned content — thought leadership, for instance — to recoup ad dollars spent during initial campaign stages when paid media builds interest.
Breakthrough #3 — immersive experiences.
Omnichannel is just the tip of the iceberg in the experience economy. It’s no longer about the channels, but about immersing customers in a compelling experience. Ray Wang, chief executive officer of Constellation Research said, “Contextually-relevant immersive experiences are more than just omnichannel. They comprise not just the ability to actually be in the right channel at the right time, but also include the right context, with the right contacts, at the right time.” If we think of a virtual reality experience, this makes sense. Customers step into another world, complete with the context to make this world believable. In fact, Forbes’ Technology Council confirms that “immersion, storytelling, and conversation aren’t just the trifecta of a great UX/UI — they’re the keys to brand loyalty.”
- Focus on an intersection of data sources and technologies, and put a data platform in place that can leverage them. A cloud-based data platform with integrative solutions such as Adobe Sensei, Adobe’s artificial intelligence toolset allows the brand to collect contextual data from both existing and new technologies as they become available.
- Leverage technologies that integrate into your data platform to merge design and analytics, allowing you to create immersive and contextually relevant brand stories.
Breakthrough #4 — augmented humanity.
The term “augmented humanity” may scare up images of cybernetically enhanced humans, but it’s really a means of enhancing human life. It starts with artificial intelligence — automation and machine learning — that learns human patterns. Then it learns the tasks that it should follow to meet human needs and wants. As a result, augmented humanity makes it possible to automate many repetitive tasks. And the impact goes further. For instance, the Henn-na Hotel creates augmented humanity experiences by detecting when bedding needs to be changed, or when room temperatures should be adjusted based on guests’ body temperatures. It then performs those tasks automatically. Such automated interventions support perfect customer experiences, without customers even needing to ask.
- Use technology to deliver AI-enhanced customer experiences that solve real business and customer problems
- Build a data foundation to capture and convert contextual data sources — weather conditions, customer location, and more — into your augmented humanity engine in real time to get personalized, actionable insights.
- Drive your automation efforts by asking, “What will boost customer experiences the most?”
Breakthrough #5 — digital navigation.
How customers navigate digital experiences is changing rapidly. In less than a decade, consumption has moved from desktops with mouse navigation to touch-screen mobile devices. Next comes a post-click world in which voice, eye-tracking, IoT sensors, and body-gesture-recognition technology will help consumers navigate digital, virtual, and augmented-reality worlds. And, with new navigational options, brands can diversify customer data to drive more contextually relevant experiences. We’ve seen how Henn-na Hotel used automated sensors, robotics, and facial recognition technology to change how guests interact with the brand, all of which is designed to give customers a unique and enhanced experience.
- Implement a robust, flexible data platform that can evolve with the changes in technology, then integrate new technologies and data sources as they become available.
- Match navigational algorithms with contextual information to improve the experience.
- Understand that more ways of navigating come with more ways of collecting data and perhaps increased customer privacy concerns. Use your predictive analytics and augmented humanity capabilities to provide real customer value and thereby earn the right to additional customer information to drive improved experiences.
Breakthrough #6 — creative data.
Data gained from creative tools may seem irrelevant to the average business, but creatives have a unique connection with experience design. The days when analysts and creatives stood apart are over. Our Creative Cloud data now shows that art — including digital art — is a reflecting pool of culture and society. As a result, creative work has a connection to consumer trends — a connection brands can’t ignore as virtual reality becomes the experience norm.
For example, earlier this year, data from Adobe Stock showed that drone-produced images are popular. Concurrently, holiday-sales data showed drone purchases increased 165 percent year-over-year. As evidenced by sales and social buzz, the creative data accurately measured the pulse of society — something brands must integrate into every experience to remain competitive.
- Take advantage of creative trends and perceptual changes to reinforce your strategy to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
- Couple integrated analytics and your content management system with ad templates to optimize creative content in real time based on current trends among marketing segments.
The way forward.
Modern customers are willing to give a brand about two seconds to do something impressive before they walk away. In those two seconds, a brand has to deliver a customized, personalized experience that surprises and pleases. Henn-na Hotel does this by dazzling with its impressive, accurate automation, but such an initial impression is only the gateway. As consumers come to expect these types of experiences, this novelty factor won’t be enough. The brands that will win in the Experience Economy will be those that deliver on customers’ shifting expectations with real-time, contextually relevant, and personalized experiences across all devices and channels.
As a result, for brands to truly succeed in the future of the experience business, they need to leverage the technologies and trends available to them and always be ready to integrate what comes next. The brands that can transform to shift — and even predict — customers’ shifting expectations — and then deliver before the competition does — will win in the Experience Era. So start now. Build a data platform that can leverage any trend or technology that emerges — disrupting from within so you can lead in a constant-disruption era.
Read more in our #KnowYourCustomers series.