Opinion a beacon of light

Monday, 01 September 2014


    Nigel Phair reviews new technology trends which could help your organisation better engage with its customers and stay ahead of the pack.

    Organisations should always be seeking innovative ways to discover new customers, drive more sales from existing customers and engage with stakeholders. In a hyper-connected world it is time to start digitising the customer experience and provide a personal, more tailored experience.

    Today, almost all individuals have digital footprints, created via interaction on social networks, through web search, participation in e-commerce and other online activities. Personalisation seeks to satisfy the needs of individuals. But what are the next steps?

    Australians have one of the highest rates of smartphone ownership in the world with penetration doubling since 2010. Usage is up, choices and platforms are growing. Smart devices are all-consuming and our online experience is getting deeper and more intense, as we do more and more activities via the internet. We spend on average two hours per day online using smartphones (half this time is spent on social media) and 41 per cent of us have made a purchase via this mechanism.

    Smart devices + customer relationship management + integrated mobile payments = improved customer engagement and better user experience. Organisations seeking to grow should use these aspects to provide consumers with a more engaging, personalised experience.

    Smartphones and tablets have two important features: geo-location and Bluetooth connectivity. Traditionally we use geo-location to “check-in” via social media sites and Bluetooth to connect via hands-free in our car.

    Every organisation, regardless of industry sector, should have its own custom app which is tied to its customer relationship management.

    As general web search diminishes as a means of discovering verified information, apps are filling the void for businesses to engage with their customers. Apps allow organisations to “push” corporate information to build relationships and loyalty while the corresponding “pull” of customer data allows a tailored approach which increases sell-through and repeat business. Geo-location, previous sales history, inventory control and one-touch access to information can be combined to provide customers with a fast, seamless experience. We all appreciate being greeted by name and having our regular preferences known in a physical sales environment and the key to success is providing a unique experience for customers utilising the online world.

    Some organisations are now dabbling with these concepts, but not enough are embracing new technology, such as the commercial roll-out of beacons. Bluetooth beacons are transmitters that broadcast signals which can be heard by smart devices. These transmitters can automatically recognise smartphones and subsequently interact with that device. Businesses can set up multiple beacons within their location which can be programmed to deliver personalised messaging or discount offers to customers.

    The opportunities are endless, including all retail environments, providing specific data at a museum or trade show or even home and office automation allowing lights and air conditioning to be set to specific user preferences.

    We are slowly getting used to self-checkout at the supermarket. As good as this option is, there are still teething problems and queues. Why not configure an app which allows shoppers to scan grocery barcodes using the smartphone camera as they are taken off the shelf? Beacons can detect in-store movements and suggest offers and discounts based on what has been selected. Traveling through a beacon on leaving the store automatically makes the payment.

    The time saving is not just for supermarket checkout queues, but think about restaurant applications, where a beacon notifies the maître d’ of guest arrival (allowing a personalised welcome), informs them of any previous visits (repeat customers may be given a complimentary food or beverage offering) and when finished, the pre-authorised payment allows diners to leave at will (providing customers with quicker meal times and allowing the restaurant to turn the table over). This can be followed up by provision of a tax invoice, a satisfaction survey or other offers – ensuring ongoing app engagement. There is also a large “wow” factor for organisations which are early adopters.

    Adding this rich data to existing customer relationship databases will improve the quality of customer information, allow better, more tailored rewards and make for a more “stickier” customer. It is personalisation using the online realm. All this is great, but as consumers we do not want this to get “creepy”. How our digital footprints are collected and managed by the organisations we have relationships with will have long-term implications. The promotion of privacy issues and importance of protecting personal information are critical to the ongoing functioning of the online environment and economy.

    Product and service personalisation experiences must be clear to consumers, allowing them to measure the organisations reputation, and allow them to value a more customised service while contrasting privacy concerns.
    Twitter: @nphair

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