6 Trends In Consumer Experience, Digital Technology & Engagement

0 Posted by - December 22, 2012 - Innovation, Technology

This article originally appeared on Mashable and InsideFMM.

Today, most marketers consider digital marketing to be synonymous with social media. Advertisers are discovering, however, that ROIs on social sharing and promoted posts are not the golden goose that tech companies led them to believe.


The social economy has declined. Online users’ patterns are changing: they no longer use social networks to broadcast, connect and share their lives. Consumers now seek deeper online and offline experiences for fulfillment.

“People want better experiences from devices, applications, websites and the offline services they enable,” said Chris Dixon, CEO of Hunch.

They are looking for something less superficial than what they currently find on social media sites. They want meaning and understanding. They want to be challenged.

In addition, consumers are beginning to prefer experiences over products. Rather than acquire more possessions, customers are more interested in spending their money and time on meaningful experiences, making memories and enriching their lives.

So as marketers, how can we connect with consumers who are moving from a socially-based consumption model to one of experience? What are the digital trends that can help us continue to convert prospects into sales and keep our brands on top in the new consumer experience economy?

Visual Thinking

Visual thinking began as an educational technique used to improve learning and retention in students. Over the past decade, it has evolved and been adopted as a strategic tool for marketers and management firms to help clients find answers to complex problems and map out their solutions using large-scale visuals. The process of visual thinking can be applied to any subject matter to help any audience or demographic improve their understanding of a certain topic.

Currently, the most comprehensive and impressive visual thinking work in the context of business consulting has been done by London-based Group Partners. The consultancy’s progressive framework and methodology helps craft solutions co-created by the client and its advisers through the application of its “4D” business equation, a system of understanding 24 dimensions of contextual logic.

They have applied this technique to more than 2,500 businesses and governments, including Coca-Cola, Estee Lauder, Vodafone, Rolls-Royce, The BBC and the Olympic Movement. This technique can be used to solve any problem or develop value based on any business question. In one case, their work making the vision and the operating ‘roadmap’ clear and relevant to their customer helped increase the effectiveness of the sales operation of one client organization by $5 billion.

“With structure and visual thinking, frameworks contain the aligned views of many reasoned against powerful argument,” said John Caswell, founder of Group Partners in an interview. “Frameworks encourage the speaking of truth, creating power in visual ways. Business doesn’t have time to waste. Co-creation, visualization and logical structure applied to the important conversations in your business will transform the way you think and act, and quickly.”

Edelman Digital, lead by David Armano, and Ogilvy Notes, a collaborative partnership Ogilvy and Image Think, began leveraging visual thinking as a tool in 2010 and 2011. As the world moves towards “visual literacy,” or being able to think in pictures and process information through graphics, visual thinking becomes a more compelling tool of choice.

The New Aesthetic

The New Aesthetic is an art movement that challenges the boundaries between digital reality and “the real world.” it blurs digital and real, blending computers, digital reality and IRL. The term “New Aesthetic” was coined by James Bridle, a London-based writer and “technologist.” His blog The New Aesthetic was so successful that he was able to parlay it into a SXSW panel. James Bridle has since abandoned the project, but the concept has taken root in popular culture.

So what is The New Aesthetic exactly? The best examples we found in an article from the Business of Fashion relating to fashion and luxury verticals were the magazine DIS and Pyramid Hill, a 3D world for which the duo leveraged a videogame level-builder called the Unreal Engine to create an immersive, interactive environment.”

Currently, the New Aesthetic is fragmented and extremely hard to put into a coherent example that would allow a marketer to grasp its full potential. But, because the subject matter of aesthetics relates how beauty is perceived and valued by use as humans, retailers are making strides in testing this concept as it applies to the retail environment.

In September 2011, The Future Laboratory and Campaign blurred digital and real life experiences in their the futuristic retail Sweet Shoppe installation during the London Design Festival.

Sweet Shoppe was a hyper-real, personalized and technology-enabled production that enabled guests to see, smell, touch and taste the retail experience of the future. On arrival, guests were taken on a 20-minute curated personal journey to source their perfect sweet as an analogy for navigating the retail landscape of tomorrow. Sweet Shoppe was created to appeal to consumers in the future who will have no recollection of life without the internet, who will not distinguish between the real and digital worlds and will seek experiences that seamlessly integrate the online and the offline.

The journey combined the mechanisms of online retailing–social recognition, profile-based recommendations, intuitive navigation and filtering options–with the best of the real world, such as tactility, conviviality, intimacy and serendipity.

The New Aesthetic movement also gained ground this year when it appeared in Jeremy Scott’s New York runway show and the launch of Kris Collins’ Decim8 iPhone application.

Most recently, luxury retailer Louis Vuitton worked with Yayoi Kusama to launch the Louis Vuitton Kusama Studio iPhone application. Louis Vuitton encourages users to “Reinvent Reality” and the world through the artist’s work, which transforms their photos using effects designed by Kusama. The app embraces concepts of the new aesthetic movement and provides marketers a way to grasp the full potential of the movement as an experiential marketing tactic.

“The new aesthetic appeals on a very ethereal and also a disruptive creative level,” said Hazel Tiffany of Group Partners. “The idea of giving something a name gives you power over it, but it also gives other people power too is powerful.”

Calm Technology

Calm technology refers to applications that cut down on the digital noise of high-volume data to show the user only enough information that he or she needs to complete a task. The Facebook ticker is one example. If the Facebook news feed updated in real time, it might move too quickly for the average user to even read, depending on how many friends they had. But moving real-time updates to the periphery, users have a more calm, curated and satisfying Facebook experience.

Mark Weiser is considered to be the father of “ubiquitous computing,” a synonym for calm technology. It refers to technologies that do not disrupt our workflow. The whole idea is to reduce distractions to our work flow without losing functionality.

Calm technology fights against many of the principles of digital marketing: instead of screaming for attention with flashing banner ads, technologies and applications politely take a backseat to the user’s primary focus, behaving more like a proper butler than a child suffering from ADHD. Weiser postulated that digital technology should enter our lives in such a way as to make it calmer and easier, not more distracted and disrupted.

Examples of calm technology can be found in the growing popularity of social curation and discovery. Social product discovery sites such as Lyst, Mulu.Me, Buyosphere, Svpply and Discoveredd are essentially social filters that enable their communities to curate the products that are most relevant to them. Moreover, the rise of interest networks and the idea of following someone who has similar likes and shared interest topics are examples of the principles of calm technology driving user behavior. Google Circles, Pinterest and Chime.In, even location apps such as Sonar, Glancee and Highlight, can all be classified under the “term interest network.”

Calm technology does not necessarily jibe with most digital marketing goals—the whole idea is to reduce the flow of information to people, not increase it. The public, however, seems to be ready for applications that streamline information. The irony is that if marketers could deliver better targeted messages often to people who cared more, then that would increase ROI and reduce the amount of digital noise that we face each day on the internet.

Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli. Instead of simply using focus groups, companies are beginning to use science and higher understanding of brain function to make websites “sticky” and manipulate consumers into purchasing their products. Neuromarketing’s premise is that consumer buying decisions are made in split seconds in the subconscious, emotional part of the brain and that by understanding what they like, don’t like, want, fear and are bored by, companies can more effectively influence purchases.

The ultimate goal of neuromarketing is to blow consumer minds with products they deeply desire, thus driving their purchases. Satisfaction from certain purchases would incite product loyalty, giving brand valuable feedback to increase their profitability and business process by only creating products consumers want. Neuromarketing can be viewed as a more scientific approach to crowdsourcing.

Neuromarketing as a discipline came out of a study of participants in the “Pepsi Challenge,” according to a PBS report. The report states that marketers still don’t understand how to apply the marketing data they gleaned from their experiments, but that didn’t stop people from opening an agency or for Neilson to buy A.K. Pradeep’s agency NeuroFocus. Top companies are starting to use neuromarketing, but there is no report on the results of their efforts.

Singularity

SingularitySingularity is a hot topic right now, and it represents a turning point for humanity. Singularity is based on the concept of an event horizon, or a point beyond which we cannot hypothosize or predict. This term is most commonly used to describe what happens inside and beyond black holes–we can see what happens on the outer edges, but our ability to conceive what would happen to light or matter deep inside is limited.

Singularity applies this concept of an event horizon to technological development. Technology is on the verge of becoming smarter than humans themselves. Scientific developments in artificial intelligence, direct brain-computer interfaces, biological augmentation of the brain, genetic engineering and ultra-high-resolution scans of the brain followed by computer emulation are advancing at an exponential pace often referred to as Moore’s Law.

Because the evolution of humans is based on a finite increase in brain power, once technology surpasses the human capacity to understand the world, our race will be entering a new era of technology–an event horizon beyond which we literally cannot imagine what will happen.

The Singularity Institute was founded in 2004 to bring “rational analysis and rational strategy to the challenges facing humanity as we develop cognitive technologies that will exceed the current upper bounds on human intelligence.” The Singularity Institute aims to reduce the risk of a catastrophe resulting from an intelligence explosion using research, education, and conferences that make the case for taking artificial intelligence (AI) risks seriously and suggesting strategies to reduce those risks.

What does this mean for marketers? As users incorporate more calm technology into their daily lives, i.e. automate their banking and repeat purchases, more and more purchasing decisions will be made by computers instead of humans. Neuromarketing could be a passing fad as humans delegate decisions about their wardrobes to personal fashion AI assistants. (I know, this sounds like science fiction, but it’s coming sooner than you think.)

Dave Surgan of Morpheus Media takes another approach to Singularity, noting that “the integration of ‘The Internet of Things’ with Singularity’s brain-computer interfaces and gaming mechanics leads to entirely new forms of brand experiences. Products are here to serve a function or bring joy into the user’s life. Marketers must experiment with new types of user interactions as technology continues its integration with our bodies.”

“We will begin to pinpoint exact moments that generate the greatest amount of pleasure from products,” Surgan continued. “Or better yet provide users with the realization that certain products do not create enough happiness to warrant the purchase. The Internet of Things will connect to products in various forms of lightweight interactions. The cumulative effect of these interactions can enact a greater change within our society. What if you put on your Burberry trenchcoat this morning and an umbrella icon lit up on the sleeve because rain is forecasted later in the day? What if the fabric would brighten along with your office lighting because all this rain is decreasing your dopamine levels?”

Because Singularity has such a broad definition, its discussions and symposiums encompass a wide variety of technologies—everything from AI to life extension, from neurological research to neuromarketing. Twice a year the Singularity Institute has a conference, the Singularity Summit, which features cutting-edge information on subjects including technology, robotics, life extension and brain-computer interfaces.

Gamification

As I (Macala) wrote earlier this year, social games are beginning to effect consumer behavior and purchases. When you overlay game theory with current trends in increased demand for immersive experiences, marketers can start to see that singularity really a bridge that connection between the everyday and the fantastical.

According to the Gartner report’s 2011 study of game mechanics, the opportunities for businesses are great: “While real-world activities are rarely compelling, gamification builds a narrative that engages players to participate and achieve the goals of the activity.” Game mechanics create more engaged customers, encourage crowdsourcing innovation and inspire more brand narratives.

So, as a marketer, how do you intend to market to consumers in the experience economy?

The question that I’d like to pose to you to is, “What could we achieve as marketers if we gave consumers with the capacity to visualize their own happiness? – Macala Wright, publisher and founder of FMM.


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