This article originally appeared on Brand Experience Mag.
No industry is immune from the growing shift toward customer-centricity. With virtually limitless possibilities where customers can turn, brands that expect consistent business need to create and provide engaging customer experiences. Walking the thin line between intriguing and efficient has proven to be overwhelming for brands seeking help from the technology that promises to answer it all. But that’s because technology is just opportunity until you make something of it; it’s the means, not the ends.
Technology alone is not the solution
The digital age has changed our relationship with just about everything – including brands. Consumers expect to interact with your brand when they want it, where they want it, without going out of their way to find it. If it’s not accessible, they’re very disappointed—and not just in the given experience, but in the brand itself.
According to a Google study from 2018, the average number of customer touchpoints tripled in just two years, indicating that the customer journey is more complex than ever before. The same study found that in addition to consumers expecting an omni-channel experience – they want it done with near perfect execution.
Every part of an experience is available for scrutiny. Every touchpoint communicates something to an audience. From where you are and how you’re delivering, to where you’re not and what’s missing, everything is communicated as a message to your potential consumer.
Your experience is not just communicated through an app or 30 second TV ad – it’s how you promote your web search, it’s the ease of a customer service interaction, and it’s the seamlessness of these moments that matter most. Every touchpoint individually says something – and together they tell the story of who you are. Brands must carefully apply meaningful technology to their touch points in order to deliver for the consumer, ensuring that the technology does not negatively impact the experience.
Make technology the stage – not the star
Technology can, and often should, be a focus during the marketing planning process. What are you doing on social? How are you incorporating voice activated AR? What’s your plan for geo-targeting?
However, in the best experiences, technology is invisible; it’s what brings your experience to life, make things easier to deliver – but not the thing people leave talking about.
When Disney introduced their MagicBand, people didn’t leave talking about ‘the cool RFID chip wearables’. They left talking about the magic experience of walking up to a restaurant and having the host greet you by name; tweeting about how they tapped their wrist instead of grabbing their wallet to buy that stuffed Mickey Mouse, how they jumped the lines for Indiana Jones, and skipped the standard hotel check-in by using their colorful bracelet to get right into the room – just like magic.
Additionally, being bigger than the technology means that there’s opportunity to evolve. Maybe in the future MagicBands will allow for a cashierless experience at stores or become a way to create special ‘surprise and delights’ with favorite characters around the park. Having a strategy, that’s rooted in brand, not a specific technology, creates flexibility that can address the trends of today and prepare for what’s coming.
Experience starts and ends with people
“Start with user needs” has become the mantra of good design, and for good reason. The shift from thinking about ‘what do we want to say?’ to ‘how does our consumer expect it” is key in delivering simple and surprising experiences that excite consumers the most. Too often, people are defining users as end users – focusing on customers and external stakeholders, while overlooking the people that matter internally.
Typically, the most amazing part of the experience can be efficiency, whether people realize it or not. With Amazon’s customer service, before I talk to someone, they can see who I am and get insight on what I am inquiring about. These capabilities make their job easier and my experience better. Technology enables us to share the right information at the right time to deliver for people on both sides of the experience. After all, consumers are expecting nearly perfect, efficient execution.
Technology is just opportunity until you make something of it. It’s the means, not the ends.
To solve problems and enhance experiences, the 1’s and 0’s need creative and directive to know how to reach the consumers. Brand experience must deliver on multiple levels and incorporate technology in a way that elevates the experience for all involved. As such, we’ve seen businesses demand efficiency and customers expect consistency while technology promises to be the answer to it all.
Jenna Isken is our Associate Director of Experience and is based in our Los Angeles office.