“Everything you wear, you use, you touch today has been reinvented and is now connected.” As my friend Joel Paynel noted, connected technology was the prevailing trend at CES this year, but we’re no longer just talking about the novelty of having a smart device in your home to search cool songs for your kids and record your grocery shopping list.
We are all more connected than ever, through an increasing number of touchpoints from an expanding array of connected devices. However, even as I marvel at the stunning TVs, futuristic connected cars, new personal assistants and other crazy toys unveiled at CES, I have to wonder: is all of this connectivity actually leaving us less connected to the consumer?
Connected technologies the new norm
CES 2017 was a record-breaker this year, with over 3,800 companies exhibiting across 2.6 million square feet of exhibition hall. More than 175,000 people gathered in the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas, to explore new developments in the global technology trade. Among them: BMW’s prototype self-driving car, wearable sensors to detect blood alcohol content, fitness tracking rings and Blitab, a smart Braille-enabled tablet for the visually impaired. You can even get a connected toaster, if you’re so inclined. Then there’s the adorable household favorite, the Kuri Robot. Very similar to an Amazon Echo, but more cartoon-like, with wheels and eyes. It can react to voice commands or noises, play music and even read the kids a bedtime story.
There’s no question that connected tech helps solve real-world problems in our everyday lives. Smart devices find faster, more relevant answers to our questions. They take care of mundane tasks we’d rather not think about at all, like adjusting the temperature at home or arranging a grocery delivery.
As consumers experience these connected devices and just how much time and energy they can free up, their expectations are inevitably rising as well. Most consumers understand that their data is being collected during their smart interactions, and they expect companies to use that data to deliver better, more relevant experiences, particularly in shopping.
In short, people don’t just want a device they can boss around; they want that device to read their mind, too.
Connecting the dots with omnichannel marketing
According to a Fitch Ratings’ Outlook report, U.S. retailers and restaurants will continue to face a competitive environment in 2017 as they navigate changing customer preferences. In fact, some are inadvertently creating competition within their own brands by pitting online and offline against one another, rather than taking an omnichannel approach to connecting consumer data with relevant consumer experiences.
One such example is Bed Bath & Beyond, who reported that e-commerce sales rose 20% in Q3 while in-store sales fell by a value somewhere in the “low single-digit percentage range.”
How can retailers avoid cannibalizing in-store sales while providing more relevant, data-driven experiences online? It takes an omnichannel approach that’s only going to become more critical as connected devices work their way into more and more homes and business environments.
Some retailers are ahead of the curve. Facing a shift in customer shopping habits and attitudes toward discretionary expenditures, they’ve responded by moving to omnichannel models to holistically serve the customer across their online and bricks and mortar presence, according to Fitch.
Closing the loop
As this shift in consumer behaviors took shape over the last decade (and accelerated wildly over the last few years), brands… well, brands largely panicked. Martech, as an industry, responded with countless third-party solutions to every data challenge one could imagine: solutions to listen and collect data, across every platform in existence. Solutions to parse and sort that data. Solutions to elicit insights from that data. Solutions for advertising, content, social, commerce, sales, relationship management, and on and on and on–just have a look at Scott Brinker’s dizzying most recent Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphic.
The data dilemma today isn’t one of not knowing who the customer is, or what they’re doing. The problem many retailers are having heading into 2017 is finding that common ground between the increasing number of devices consumers use to connect and the insane number of disjointed platforms being used to try to make sense of the data.
Are we really becoming more connected to the consumer when their interactions and the data gleaned from them are spread across platforms; even across departments within retail companies?
The next step forward in omnichannel is moving beyond simply reaching consumers where they are, and instead using the data to drive more personalized experiences back to where marketers are. Consumers are becoming accustomed to immediate accessibility and will expect their brand experiences to be personalized and easy to navigate. In 2017, you’re missing out if you’re not closing the omnichannel loop with an open local platform, a single, universal seamless solution capable of reporting, listening, adapting and then informing future efforts based on the data collected across channels.
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