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Has Technology Enhanced or Damaged Our Experiences?

With technology advancing at an unprecedented rate, it is challenging to stay ahead of the latest developments. The so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution is blurring the boundaries between physical, digital and biological, and digital transformation is disrupting almost every industry.

At iProspect, we are constantly evolving to keep our clients at the forefront of emerging technologies, placing innovation at the heart of everything we do. Yet, while one could be forgiven for assuming the tech revolution is nothing other than positive – another rung on the ladder to ‘tech nirvana’ – have we ever stopped to explore the impact of technology on our experiences?

We partnered with One Question conference to find out.

On 7 June 2018, Sophie Wooller, iProspect UK’s Director of Data & Technology Products joined a lively panel moderated by Marketing Week editor, Russell Parsons, to explore the conundrum: Has technology enhanced or damaged our experiences? Alongside, Samsung’s Head of Innovation, Katie Baker, and IBM’s Chief Strategy Officer, Jeremy Waite, Sophie discussed the opportunities and challenges posed by the tech revolution and what they really mean for marketers.

The 45-minute debate flowed to uncover three broad themes: Product orientation vs Customer Orientation, Personalisation vs. Personification, and Datafication & Trust.

Product orientation vs customer orientation

The panel opened with Russell asking whether an increased emphasis on tech and innovation has rendered marketers guilty of ‘product orientation’. Sophie highlighted that while product may be an easy place for marketers to start because it’s tangible and fixed, it should, ultimately, be about customer orientation. “It gets more difficult when you try to work out what the consumer wants but there are so many tools that help us navigate the needs of our customers quickly.”

Expanding on Sophie’s point, Katie suggested that marketers should be using customer orientation to inform product orientation. “Rather than targeting people by demographic we must instead understand how they are using tech and tailor our marketing strategies accordingly. While there is so much focus on tech and innovation, our job as marketers is to take a step back and tell the story.” She pointed out, however, that a huge proportion of the market simply isn’t there yet.

Personalisation vs. Personification

So, if it is about customer orientation, should we be doing more personalisation? Sophie explained that asking people ‘do you want more personalisation?’ is a hard question to answer when they don’t fully understand all the possibilities. “Personalisation to a point is great, but not to the point of being creepy! If what we are doing is contributing, and we can do more of it in a sensible way, that is great. But we must always go back to the responsibility question – how can we strike the right balance to make it useful for the consumer?”

IBM’s Jeremy Waite elaborated, suggesting that we should be using A.I-based tech to move away from Personalisation and towards Personification. “Personification is about understanding how your audience feels. That means knowing a little bit about a lot of people, enabling you to deliver the right messages at the right time in the right way, without having personally identifiable information.”

Datafication & trust

Does this mean, though, that we have we been over-‘datafying’ marketing?

Sophie disagreed: “We need to prove that what we are doing is working, so there must be some level of measurement and framework.” However, she reinforced the responsibility aspect, adding “we will never use more information than we need.”  

For marketers, gaining the trust of consumers is paramount. After all, trust breeds loyalty. Ultimately the end goal is to be useful for consumers, so we must be responsible for ensuring everything we do contributes to that positive experience. As Katie pointed out, “There is a lot to do to reach true brand loyalty. At Samsung, we’ve moved from targeting anybody using big data to being more selective.”

Jeremy concluded by reminding us that the collision of data and tech has created both challenges and opportunities. In a nod to the rising influence of A.I., he emphasised that technology is paving a new path to trust, pointing out that “perhaps we are moving away from the idea of trusted brands and towards trusted digital assistants.”

The verdict

While there were clear arguments for both sides of the debate, the resounding answer from all three marketers was that technology has enhanced our experiences – with two caveats: 1) we must act responsibly in the innovation and application of tech; 2) a good robot must be accompanied by a good human.