This week I had the pleasure of joining the C-Suite TV team at their San Francisco event and was interviewed by Jeffrey Hayzlett. It was a fun discussion as he asked me about the shift from social media to social messaging, strategies to make the shift, voice based experiences, disruption, galactic cannibalism, trends and the future of connecting with consumers.
Below is a recap of my key talking points for each question.
(C-Suite TV – JH) As we’re on the verge of a transformational moment in marketing with the shift from social media to social messaging, how are marketers making this shift?
(Tom Edwards – TE) Over the past 5-10 years we as marketers have focused primarily on the open web + social media. Earlier this year social messaging passed social media in terms of monthly active users. Consumers are ready for conversational experiences. Part of the reason for the appeal is that it is seen as safe, comfortable and intimate.
I spent most of this year researching, writing and educating our brand partners about what this shift can mean for their business. We conducted proprietary research on what consumers want from conversational experiences that led to an ebook on the topic.
As we dug into consumer expectations around conversational experiences, our research found that they want experiences that are convenient and support local experiences, there is openness to pay within social messaging and an expectation that it will connect physical and digital elements such as in store coupons and discounts, there is also a willingness to interact with intelligent systems. Research also shows that 60% of millennials would prefer talking to a chatbot vs. talking to a human when it comes to resolving questions about online shopping.
From a marketing perspective there has been a significant amount of experimentation trying to create the ideal experience. With Apple, Facebook, LINE, Kik, Skype and more providing tools and services that will allow others through 3d party SDKs & API’s to create an ecosystem. Their hope is to become the central portal in order to empower consumers and drive commerce. Facebook doesn’t own the hardware or the operating system, so they are invested in keeping people in the messenger experience.
Some experiences are trying to further personify the brand, others are about creating utility or a sense of intimacy with the brand. The goal is to create a real-time experience that is centralized in one conversational thread.
The key will be creating experiences that are not disruptive but are actually attentive to the current and future needs of the consumer. The ideal experiences will be built around the premise of simplification + prediction. It’s not about a deeper personal connection like a friend, but to be able to anticipate, predict and enhance a consumers experience.
This is where we see the idea of CONNECTION + COGNITION coming together.
(JH) What processes and strategies do you need in place to make this shift effective?
(TE) I recommend an approach that is based on five core factors of Simplification, Data Design, Prediction, Ambient Design & Physical to Digital.
1 – (SIMPLIFICATION) The key is to reduce complexity in consumers lives and create experiences that are ownable by the brand’s domain. Mine customer data for most commonly asked questions and expand from there with use cases focused on enhancing and simplifying experiences.
2 – (DATA DESIGN) Have a strategy not just to capture data but how to use it. Define the role of unstructured data in refining the experience. Consider what new data points are being integrated to inform future prediction. How are you making the data actionable? On my team we now have a data design team that sits between traditional brand planning + digital strategy. This is the intersection of Big Data + Design Thinking. They own the tools, assets and data sources and understand how to craft a data driven narrative.
3 – (PREDICTION) Anticipate consumer needs is key for the future of conversational experiences. Messenger experiences are not designed to be like Google search, at least not yet. Google is working towards the ideal intersection between search & retrieval vs. predictive. But again a combination of data, predictive analytics built on working data is the entry point towards truly predictive experiences. (cognitive will accelerate this)
4 – (AMBIENT DESIGN) The future of computing is tied to ambient experiences, or how your environment interacts with you. It is critical to approach designing conversational and voice based UX differently.
5 – (PHYSICAL TO DIGITAL) One of the other elements is the rise of conversational commerce. There is a concerted effort to closely align physical & digital shopping experiences as a means to enhance the customer experience. Our research shows there is an expectation from consumers to have local experiences connect to digital through conversational experiences.
(JH) Let’s talk about some newer technologies, how does voice based technology play into this shift to a conversational user experience?
(TE) I am a strong believer in the fact that voice based experiences and artificial intelligence systems will become pervasive in our everyday lives. The core of the experience is a combination of automated speech recognition, natural language processing and a cloud based AI that comprise a voice based user experience.
I am very intrigued by the possibility of the ability to create context through voice services such as Amazon Alexa Voice Services & the recently launched Google Home. Voice based experiences will play a key role during this time as our interactions with connected systems and the rise of micro services as a primary mechanism to navigate a hyper connected world will become the new normal.
I strongly believe that we will begin to see a convergence over the next few years where elements that enable connection such as social messaging and voice based conversational user experiences combined with cognitive computing (AI) and immersive experiences such as holographic computing will become interconnected and will redefine how we approach connecting with consumers.
We will begin to see services such as Alexa Voice Services quickly proliferate throughout 3rd party devices from in home IOT systems to connected vehicles and “skills” will become a key component for how we navigate beyond screens. Estimates already show over 28 billion connected devices by 2019.
(JH) We hear you say that “disruption is the new normal” what do you mean by that?
(TE) Digital disruption has been at the center of major consumer shifts over the past 10 years. Disruption is now the new normal. The Premise is change is constant and experimentation is critical and how you integrate trends into your existing business is key.
The acceleration of technology has led to the rapid empowerment of the consumer. What organizations have to consider is that with each iteration of technology and consumer empowerment new types of interactions will lead to the need to rethink the business models of today.
This has a significant impact on the C-suite as the pressure on CMO’s to be creative thinkers, intelligent around data, domains and disciplines as well as mitigation of risk, pressure to innovate, find and retain talent and try to be as agile as possible. Combined with the pace of new interaction models there is a lack of strategy to deal with the shifts in a meaningful way as the focus is on short term stability.
This is why it’s important to build a plan with a foundational approach to data and understand what domains the brand can own and where in the new interaction types there are opportunities to redefine business models. This is why I have chosen Connection, Cognition and Immersion as the pillars of how brands can map to the new interaction types of the near future.
(JH) I heard you say we’re on the verge of galactic cannibalism can you explain what this means for marketers and how can marketers stay ahead of the game?
(TE) I have spoken a lot recently about how disruption is the new normal. I recently heard someone compare the last five years as a “supernova” of disruption in terms of the intensity and velocity of change.
With the rise of artificial intelligence, conversational & ambient experiences, connected systems and mixed reality on the horizon we are moving well beyond a supernova and are now on the verge of galactic cannibalism.
Galactic cannibalism is when one galaxy collides with another and there is a subsequent absorption of parts of one into the other. From a consumer marketing standpoint how we consume and interact via digital channels is about to be absorbed and redefined through new advancements in connection, cognition & immersion.
The key point to surviving and thriving is to have a comprehensive data strategy as data assets will serve as the fuel of this shift. Regardless of which galaxies collide a thorough understanding of data, content, experiences and outcomes is a marketing foundation for the future.
Also, it is important to understand how data will evolve. Currently the focus is on 1st part & 3rd party data. But in the emerging world think of the data created by connected systems as well as new forms of real time sentiment data, such as your eyes in a VR experience or facial recognition in a retail setting. These will require a comprehensive data design effort to craft content, experiences and drive outcomes as a marketing foundation for the future.
Ultimately we will have to acknowledge that the relationship between consumers and technology will fundamentally change from consumers operating technology to technology operating for consumers through data.
(JH) How do you apply the trends of today to the business models of the future?
(TE) The first step is to be aware of what is happening. Analysts such as Gartner and Forrester are evaluating and publishing their rankings of where technology is going. One of my favorites is the Gartner Hype Cycle.
One of my responsibilities with Epsilon is I lead the innovation practice for the agency business. We have designed an approach that is consumer centric, data driven, iterative and allows our brand partners to scale emerging technologies and integrate trends into tangible solutions that drive business outcomes. The practice is comprised of four distinct elements that span research, workshops, experimentation and transformation.
Regarding research & trends, we leverage Epsilon’s proprietary data and analytics, first and third party research, emerging companies and established partner networks to research, curate and educate on the latest trends and how it can apply to our clients business.
Our approach is as follows:
Our team identifies a new tech/emerging tech…
1. Track Product/Technology Announcement
2. Measure Velocity of coverage & discussion
3. Conduct Initial analysis & POV outlining potential value/impact
4. Explore outcome impacts & role of tech in consumer journey
5. Map vertical specific use cases
6. Educate internal teams & external clients
7. Identify early vendor partners and alpha/beta opportunities
8. Conduct Project based experiments
9. Capture & package project based success
10. Build business value case for horizon consideration
Once you have identified your trends its helpful to begin to filter across key macro trend territories, in this case I am exploring trends that reach across
Connection, Cognition & Immersion
(JH) What’s really resonating with consumers right now? What should marketers be paying attention too?
(TE) Anonymous personalization through dynamic content, targeted video content, Personalized, connecting the consumer experience across digital to physical & 1:1 messaging that is authentic, provides value and is contextually relevant is key.
Human attention is now a scarce commodity. Attention is a resource – and we only have so much to give. The key to experience design is built around data, content & channels or experiences.
I like to start with data, it can be 1st party or secondary data sources, but I look for attitudinal, behavioral in addition to standard demographic. Transactional data can also be a key element and consistency of message is key.
(JH) What is the future of connecting with consumers?
(TE) I strongly believe that we will begin to see a convergence over the next few years where elements that enable connection such as social messaging and voice based conversational user experiences combined with cognitive computing (AI) and immersive experiences such as holographic computing will become interconnected and will redefine how we approach connecting with consumers.
The key will be to create data designed experiences that empower consumers.
Here is a link to the full video interview kicking off season 7.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360