Panel: How emerging technologies are reshaping customer experience management

Panellists including T-Mobile, Chobani, Adobe, Hootsuite and Equinox Fitness predict the rise of new consumer identity management jobs as AI, mixed reality and voice technologies come to the fore

Growing volumes of data generated through emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, voice interaction and mixed reality could see consumers outsourcing their own identity management as the very nature of value-driven exchange between brand and consumer transforms.

The impact of emerging technologies on customer experience was a key topic discussed during Adobe’s latest Think Tank debate series, held as part of this year’s Adobe Summit and broadcast on Facebook Live. The physical and virtual event featured a panel of industry luminaries from vendor, consulting and client-side organisations such as Hootsuite, Chobani, Accenture Interactive, T-Mobile, Equinox Fitness, Microsoft, Stripe and Adobe, and was hosted by Constellation Research principal analyst, Ray Wang. 

T-Mobile VP of digital journeys, Giles Richardson, noted the plethora of data inputs coming into play off the back of artificial intelligence (AI), which could shake-up experience management and delivery. He defined these as input technologies (such as chatbots, biometrics), enabling platforms (blockchain and quantum computing) and experience-based delivery (such as augmented reality).

Each creates new data sets that are increasingly being shared and utilised. As a consequence, Richardson predicted the rise of a job managing identities as consumers try to better manage their data being used.

“As a consumer, there could be a situation where you’re being asked to make decisions about what data you share, and you don’t feel qualified about making the right answers or understand what you’ll get out of it. So I’m going to outsource the whole thing to someone who’s going to manage my identity,” he said. “That becomes a job layer that didn’t exist before.”

Richardson labelled the phenomenon “pimp my profile” and said it’s about a more controlled version of the persona a consumer presents to a brand, whatever your ambition.

“It could be anonymity, or that you just want a curated, better version of yourself out there,” he said. “I may want to enable the sharing of data between my mobile phone provider and car insurance company to give me better discount rates, for example… or just make a better version of me.

“We know companies will get more astute in picking the right customers and influencers, so why not make me that influencer so I can access better, cheaper stuff.”  

In addition, Hootsuite CMO, Penny Wilson, said consumers could want to change and modify their profile so brands tailor more directly to what they’re interested in today, versus “what is being dragged along with you”.

Richardson, Wilson and Adobe head of marketing strategy, Wendy Steinle, also predicted the rise of ‘pre-configured’ bots that execute a consumer’s wishes in the digital realm. This could be gaining immediate access to new offers or experiences, to pushing an individual reaction out into the market as soon as something happens.

Privacy and transparency

What becomes of privacy in the data exchange of the future was then the question the panel sought to answer. Steinle suggested today’s generation Z are more comfortable with their information being known.

“The question is: At what point will they care to keep something private? And how do companies engage with them in a way that gives them the control they need knowing they’re a generation growing that’s more comfortable?” she said.

Of course, it’s less clear what future generations might want, and several panellists saw consumer backlash as ever more pots of data insights are used to deliver personalised experiences.  

“We as experience makers need to be completely transparent about what we’re doing, how we’re making offers, and be open and give people very simple control to state how much they want to be known, or how much they want that knowledge to be leveraged,” Steinle said. “And that will change over time as other generations come up and grow up.”

Transparency around data sharing and utilisation was a big must for all panellists. While regulation will play an inevitable part in this equation, all agreed the onus is on organisations to be as open as possible about how they’re using consumer data.

Equinox Fitness digital design lead, Cecelia Farooqi, stressed the importance of being transparent with consumers about what’s known about them, how such information is being used, and make it easier for them to set preferences and have a say in how they want to be marketed to and exposed to things.

Wilson advocate more open source, or community-based regulation, emerging. “A balance between an ability to personally regulate something and having a third party regulate is where things need to end up,” she said.

The challenge is that in many cases of emerging technology and data collection, the answer from brands would be ‘I don’t know yet’, Richardson said.

“If we put AI on it, we may see patterns that give great insights on that customer down the line. But we don’t know until we do it,” he said. “There needs to be enough trust built with the customers to let them know we’re going to collect stuff, and to be comfortable with that and trust us enough to provide benefits a good way later down the track.”

Panellists also questioned whether data privacy is a luxury, especially in a world where consumers have more opportunity to ‘monetise’ themselves and their data. Steinle asked if people with lesser means are forced to respond to brands because they need the offer more than others.

“Maye that’s where we need regulation to level that playing field,” she said. “We don’t want a group of people having to consume things that aren’t healthy for them, but work for the brand, while others can protect themselves from that. It’s going to cause other societal problems.”

Personalisation’s future: Anticipate, don’t predict

The state of personalisation today versus in the future was another subject of debate. Accenture Interactive global personalisation lead, Jeriad Zoghby, saw marketers at a pivotal moment of change.

“There is a shift from marketing communications, which is a one-dimensional view… to creating digital conversations where it’s bi-directional,” he said. “That change the frameworks you work within for experience.”

For Zogbhy, the key for brands is to shift from prediction to anticipation. “Because we’ve grown out of marketing and advertising in a way where we haven’t known much about the end consumer, we sometimes bias the way we do things like service and sales when in fact, people don’t want you to predict for them,” he claimed.

“No one wants Uber outside their house before they’ve called, that’s creepy. What I want is the anticipation that when I call for Uber, it’s available to me and on my terms.”

Again, that comes back to empowering the consumer and giving them more control of the brand/consumer exchange.

“If I’m predicting what a customer wants, it means I’m in control and trying to define your customer journey. But when I anticipate, I’m trying to create enough flexibility for you to be in control of your customer journey,” Zoghby said. “It does create a need for new experiences, one where I think mixed and augmented reality will play a big role.”

To get there, the first step has to be listening to your customers. “If we’re going to be a good brand and have a good value exchange with the customer, and they’re giving over information that should be creating a good experience for them, you have to have the listening mechanisms that can catch up to the customer as well,” Farooqi said.

Chobani chief creative officer, Leland Maschmeyer, raised the idea of flipping the traditional CRM view of customers into a ‘VRM’ or vendor relationship management model, where consumers are in control of building the brand/consumer exchange on their terms. This also lends itself to the monetisation of individuals to brands, a trend several panellists predicted.

“CRM is the company’s point of view on building relationship with you... their goals, objectives and biases are built into that. But if you flip it so as I’m the economic entity and they’re all competing with me for my attention and dollars… I’m now managing all the vendors. All of a sudden, I’m dictating the terms of the relationship with me,” he said.

“It’s a very different dynamic. If I’m managing my own VRM system, I know my lifetime value to a particular company. That’s part of the empowerment model.”

For Maschmeyer, models such as VRM are about bringing enterprise technology to very personal level and to the needs and capabilities of the individual. He suggested this has been the natural evolution of most technologies over history.

“Just imagine all the apparatus that allow businesses to dictate the relationships we customers, being simplified and brought home so individuals can do that back to companies. That’s an interesting change to experience,” he added.  

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Summit as a guest of Adobe.

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