As we move into the next phase of the digital revolution, data will take an increasingly important role in how brands shape their customer experience and interact with consumers. As wearable computers proliferate and everything from cars to smart speakers to industrial equipment are connected to the Internet, people and devices are creating more data than ever before.
Not only can brands use this data to create personalised offerings for each consumer, they can also use it to deliver messages and interactions that are tailored to the consumer’s need within the context of a particular moment. This gives brands and marketers breath-taking power to meet the needs of their customers, but it also raises new privacy and security risks.
Here are three data-related trends I see changing the game for brands over the next year to 18 months:
1. Bridging the gap between online and offline
The world of digital commerce and brick-and-mortar retail are starting to converge into a single customer experience. Not only have most of the world’s and South Africa’s leading retail brands made extensive investments in omnichannel strategies spanning apps, websites and stores, online retailers such as Amazon and South Africa’s Yuppiechef have gone into high-street retail. HomeChoice Showrooms have taken it a step further by creating home layouts that match typical two-bedroom houses allowing their target market shoppers to see how the items will fit in their homes before buying online.
People can go into a store to touch and feel merchandise before they order online. Or in some cases, they can order online and fetch at a store. And increasingly, in more advanced markets, they can pay from an app while they shop in-store. At Amazon Go, for example, shoppers simply check into the store with the Amazon Go app, take the products they want, and walk out.
Scanners and cameras watch shoppers as they move through the store, the AI keeps tabs on the items they have taken from the shelves, and the goods they pick up are charged to their account when they leave. What makes this so exciting for retailers is all the choice data they can now collect on prospects and customers in physical stores.
For the first time, they can get a level of consumer insight about shoppers in real-world stores that compares to the rich behavioural data they can collect across their digital channels. With a 360-degree view of the customer across digital and brick-and-mortar channels, they can deliver more personalised engagements and experiences at every touchpoint.
The challenge? Making optimal use of that data without being creepy. It’s a little disconcerting when you get Facebook ads for beds for days after you searched for mattress deals. But imagine just how invasive it might feel if you get ads served to you online after facial recognition software spotted you looking at beds in a furniture store?
Given that facial recognition technology is already in use at boarding gates at some US airports – you can board by presenting your face to a camera – this scenario is not so far-fetched.
2. Flourishing within the walled garden
A handful of large digital companies – sometimes called ‘GAFA’ (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) or ‘FAANGS’ (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) – are becoming the power brokers in a data-driven world. In some cases, they know more about us than our partners do because of the amount of data they have gathered about what we buy, what we read, what we search, what we do online…
They have accumulated personal data and established their dominance at a speed that left regulators in the dust. As the Cambridge Analytica scandal shows, even the leaders and owners of platforms such as Facebook are sometimes surprised by the unintended effects of the data they collect and how it can be put to use.
Paradoxically, attempts to regulate these platforms through regulations such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation could entrench their position in the market. Brands may struggle to gather customer opt-ins and manage consent on their own – and will find their relationships with consumer data increasingly mediated through companies like the FAANGS.
These platforms may not allow you to store data you generate on their platforms outside their walled gardens. The choice may one day come down to using their technology and allow them to have a complete view of your data or renouncing the insight you generated on their platforms in your own data management platform. Besides, Google owns DoubleClick, and Facebook owns WhatsApp, so it already knows a lot about your business, in any case.
How this will all shake out in the future remains unpredictable – however, lawmakers and regulators will always struggle to keep up with the speed of change in this landscape.
3. Visualising and vocalising the future of search
Just how popular voice and visual search are now and how big they will get is contentious, but there can be little doubt that they will be a key part of the future. Virtual assistants with voice search capabilities — Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa – are becoming more powerful and more popular with end-users.
Voice-only search allows users to browse the web and access information without actually having to scroll through sites on desktops and mobile devices. Amazon’s Alexa, for instance, can seamlessly search through Spotify’s musical inventory, scan Wikipedia or shop on Amazon quickly at a user’s command.
Visual search is becoming more sophisticated, too, with platforms like Google Lens, Instagram, Pinterest and Bing building image recognition algorithms into their software. With visual search you can, for example, point your smartphone camera at an item in the environment to find out where to buy it or to discover related content.
Voice and visual search will expand a brand’s options to answer customer needs with an individualised experience, especially for local searches, which comprise the bulk of voice searches. The organisations that jump in now will be ahead of the curve and could have the opportunity to build strong voice search rankings ahead of the competition.
Security gets an upgrade – with a few glitches
Video doorbells are all the rage in the USA. Can they work in South Africa? SEAN BACHER tries out the Ring Video DoorBell 2 and Floodlight Cam.
IP cameras have become synonymous with both business and home security. They are readily available, fairly inexpensive and, in many cases, easy to install.
Many are wireless, allowing one to place the camera anywhere within Wi-Fi range. As a result, they are a solution that can be customised to suit any type of security situation.
A world leader in doorbell security, Amazon subsidiary Ring, has recently extended its range of security devices, which now includes doorbells, floodlights, and Wi-Fi extenders, all designed to enhance and complement existing security beams and electric fences.
First up is the Ring Video DoorBell 2
It doesn’t look much like your normal intercom system, except for the miniature eye that keeps track of mischief that may be happening.
Setting up is fairly easy. All one needs to do is connect it to the network by pushing the connect button, create an account on the downloaded smartphone app and get started with customisation and certification. Features like sensitivity, alerts, and numbers where these alerts need to be sent can all be preprogrammed. It is then just a matter of positioning the doorbell to get the best video coverage.
Getting the correct position may take some time, though, as cars and pedestrians may set it off.
Next up is the Floodlight Cam
This works much the same as the doorbell. However, it needs to be mounted to a wall. Ring has you covered there: in the box you will find drill bits, screws and even a screwdriver to help you secure the camera.
You will have to set alerts, phone numbers, and sensitivity. The spotlight allows you to change what time it should light up and shut down, and the package also includes an alarm, should its beams be broken.
Although this all sounds good, there are a few drawbacks to the Ring solutions. Firstly, unlike the United States, where doorbells are stuck in the vicinity of a front door, allowing them to connect to a network easily, many houses in South Africa have gates that need to be opened before one can reach the front door. This means that the bells are on or near the gate, and they are unable to connect to a home or business network.
Now, however, Ring has launched a Wi-Fi extender, but this requires an additional set-up process – and a fairly expensive one, considering the camera cost.
The Ring devices come with Protection Plans that automatically upload any triggered recordings to the cloud, allowing you to view them at a later stage. This trial period only lasts for 30 days, after which the plans can be extended from R450 for a three month period, up to R1 500 for a twelve-month period.
The attention to detail in the packaging and the addition of the tools really does put the Ring in a class of its own. No short cuts were taken in its design, and you can immediately see that it’s no rip-off. However, the Protection Plans need to be looked at carefully in terms of their costs.
Aside from this challenge, I found the devices very handy inside my house. For instance, a few times my external alarm or fence would sound, at which stage I would get a notification from my armed response – while I was away. But I easily logged in to Ring from my phone to check if anything strange was happening – all in a matter of seconds and while I was sitting all the way in Berlin.
The devices are rather expensive, though, with the Video Door Bell starting at R3 500 and going up to R7 990, and the Floodlight Cam going for R5 000. It all adds up quickly.
The cost means these solutions may not be quite ready for the South African consumer looking for a complete external perimeter security system.
Despite the Protection Plans, I did find them very handy inside my house. For instance, a few times my external alarm or fence would sound, at which stage I would get a notification from my armed response.
But, I easily logged in to Ring from my phone to check if anything strange was happening – all in a matter of seconds and while I was sitting all the way in Berlin.
It’s not a ‘techlash’ – it’s a ‘tech clash’
By RORY MOORE, Innovation Lead, Accenture South Africa
People’s love for technology has let businesses weave it, and themselves, into our lives, transforming how we work live and interact in this new world which we at Accenture are referring to – in our Tech Vision 2020 – as the “post-digital era.” But now we are being held back.
At a time when people see the potential of embracing technology more deeply into their lives, systems and services built for a old era are not supporting where people want to go. The next five years will see radical transformation as technology is realigned to better reflect people’s needs and values.
We look at the latest emerging trends that will transform how we live in work in this fundamentally different post-digital world.
Tech trend 1: “The I in experience” – helping people choose their own adventure
The next generation of technology-driven experiences will be those that make the user an active participant in creating the experience. Businesses are increasingly looking to personalise and individualise experiences to a greater degree than ever before, but are faced with stricter data regulations and users that are wary of services being too invasive. To address this, leading businesses are changing the paradigm and making choice and agency a central component of what they deliver.
Tech trend 2: “Artificial intelligence (AI) and me” – reimagining business through human and AI collaboration
Businesses will have to tap the full potential of AI by making it an additive contributor to work, rather than a backstop for automating boring or repetitive tasks. Until now, enterprises have been using AI to automate parts of their workflows, but as AI capabilities grow, following the old path will limit the full benefit of AI investments, potentially marginalise people, and cap businesses’ ability for growth. Businesses must rethink the work they do to make AI a generative part of the process. To do so, they will have to build new capabilities that improve the contextual comprehension between people and machines.
Tech trend 3: “The dilemma of smart things” – overcoming the “beta burden”
As enterprises convert their products into platforms for digital experiences, new challenges arise that, if left unaddressed, will alienate customers and erode their trust. Now that the true value of a product is being driven by the experience, a facet of the product that enterprises have traditionally retained strict control over, businesses must re-evaluate central questions: how involved they are with the product lifecycle, how to maintain transparency and continuity over product features, when is a product truly “finished”, and even who owns it?
Tech trend 4: “Robots in the wild” – growing businesses’ reach and responsibility
Robotics are no longer contained to the warehouse or factory floor. Autonomous vehicles, delivery drones, and other robot-driven machines are fast entering the world around us, allowing businesses to extend this intelligence back into the physical world. As 5G is poised to accelerate this trend, every enterprise must begin to re-think their business through the lens of robotics. Where will they find the most value, and what partners do they need to unlock it? What challenges will they face as they undergo this transformation, and what new responsibilities do they have towards their customers and society at large?
Tech trend 5: “Innovation DNA” – creating an engine for continuous innovation
Businesses should assemble their unique innovation DNA to define how their enterprises grow in the future. Maturing digital technology is making it easier than ever before to transform parts of the business, or find new value in share tools with others. The three key building blocks of innovation DNA are:
Continue on the digital transformation journey
Accelerate research and development (R&D) of scientific advancements and utilise elements such as material sciences and genomic editing to ensure practical applications are leaving these labs quicker than ever before
Leverage the power of DARQ (distributed ledger technology, AI, extended reality and quantum computing) to transform and optimise the business
Differentiation in the post-digital era will be driven by the powerful combinations of innovation and these building blocks will enable exactly that.
It’s not a “techlash”, it’s a “tech-clash”
Essentially, this new digital world is more intimate and personal than ever imaginable, but the models for data, ownership, and experience that define that world have remained the same.
Tech-clash is a clash between old models that are incongruous with people’s expectations. The time to start transformation is now. To this end, businesses need to defuse the tech-clash, build human-centered models and foster deeply trusting relationships.
For more information on how Accenture can help enterprises adopt the latest tech trends to future-proof their businesses in the post-digital era, go to: https://www.accenture.com/za-en.