— Marketing

A world where everyone’s digital experience is unique.

By Darren Kirkland

Summary

Content might be king, but personalisation is next in line.

The digital revolution has put power in the hands of customers, and with the advent of automation through AI all signs suggest that this will only continue.

Businesses of the future need to master the collecting and harnessing of data using AI-driven tools in order to keep up with the demand for totally personalised experiences. In tomorrow’s world companies won’t have one app, one website, one email template – they‘ll have thousands.

But what will that look like, and how will a personalised digital realm impact current norms? 

How the internet will change

 

To guess what the future internet might look like we need only look to China for inspiration. In China, people use apps such as WeChat for almost everything – from this single source, they can browse, connect, shop and book. It’s seamless.

This is likely next for us, too. Or at least the beginning of the next.

An internet for one

Imagine a single device that knows its user so well it can predict what they need before it’s needed. To achieve this it would use a significant volume of data signals, which might include:

  • Location
  • Demographic
  • Preferences
  • History
  • Sentiment
  • Communications with other devices
  • Communications with businesses

With the power of smart, self-learning AI, these users won’t need to know any URLs. They may never need to browse the internet again. Their device can suggest personalised articles to read, videos to watch in the formats they prefer, stores to browse with items they’ll love. If they require something and it hasn’t already been provided, they simply ask for it. As search engines do for us today, they will reach out and find the relevant information. Theoretically, they’ll get this decision right 9 times out of 10.

The impact on businesses

Everything you know about digital marketing is wrong, at least for this future world. 

Think about how current marketing practices might be up-ended with AI tools powerful enough to individualise the internet:

  • If everyone is getting individualised content, what will user personas or customer segments look like? 
  • If businesses have little need for a website, they may have little need for SEO as we know it.
  • Businesses may have to share their customer data with device manufacturers in order to be visible on their platform. Indeed, data-sharing may replace SEO.

Marketing automation in a hyper-personalised world

 

The way organisations plan, deliver and analyse marketing materials is probably quite similar to how it’ll be done in the future – the major difference will be scale.

This will require new AI tools such as self-writing emails and ads – there’s no way content creators can write a million different variations of the same email, but they could write the base version and let a computer utilise a company’s customer data to personalise it from there. That way each customer receives an email that doesn’t just include their name, but language that reflects their circumstances – are they ill? In a good or bad mood? Visiting a store in the morning or at night? Are they at work or at home? Are they young, old, somewhere in between? Is their loyalty waning, or are they a VIP?

The impact on businesses

Aside from purchasing the AI required to power such an automation platform, businesses will have to wrangle their data in a very new and streamlined fashion.

What they’ll need is a single source of truth for the entire organisation. That means a CRM on steroids; a repository of information with profiles on individual customers that reflects their every touch point, every preference. Each department will have access to this repository, and with the help of more automation, can constantly update it with new information.

  • Example: A customer buys an item online – the system is updated. A short while later they chat with customer service (a chatbot) and it turns out the watch didn’t work. Again, the system is updated. The chatbot can’t solve the problem so passes to a human agent, who is automatically shown the customer’s unique profile and all relevant info pertaining to their problem. The agent doesn’t need to repeat questions, as the AI has shown them all the data they could need. It also updates in real time as the customer talks, to show historic data that might also be relevant as it’s brought up in conversation.

The integration of real and digital

 

For this massive data-based system to work at its best, it needs access to more than just browser histories. Wearable technology, virtual assistants and smart devices will all play a vital role in connecting our real lives with our digital ones.

Information will be freely shared between nodes, and each system will learn from its counterparts. From here, customer profiles can be kept up to date with what’s going on in their daily lives so that others – businesses, the government, perhaps friends and family, too – can help.

  • Example: A user wears a FitBit-style device. It recognises they haven’t been sleeping well this past week. Meanwhile, their browser history shows they’ve been interested in articles about mental illness, and their IRD profile knows they recently became unemployed. Their friends and family are sent a notification to check in on how they are doing, or they’re sent a list of helplines to call. Think about how connectedness like this could help defeat problems such as NZ’s history of people keeping mental illness to themselves and suffering in silence.

Impact on businesses

If this all sounds very Big Brother and dystopic to you, chances are it also sounds so to customers. For this interconnected, personalised world to function, we must clearly know where the line is between what can and can’t be captured. Given today’s relative lack of regulatory oversight on data technology, more may need to be achieved in government before we reach the next level.

We can’t necessarily speak to how people’s attitudes to data privacy will change between now and the future, but businesses will definitely need a flawless privacy policy no matter what.

In conclusion

 

No matter how the digital experience changes, technology is putting the customer at the heart of everything. If your business is to keep up, you must be able to gather and harness customer data to create a seamless, enjoyable, even predictive experience.

Yes, tools, regulations and attitudes will change, but the importance of good data will always be a constant.

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