When Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 it wasn’t just a technological breakthrough. It ushered in a new era of communication, as it signified the beginning of ‘smart phones’ becoming mainstream. The ramifications have been enormous.
With the growing popularity of ‘smart phones’, social media exploded. It suddenly became a much more useful and convenient way of communicating with 24/7 access to our favourite platforms, wherever we were in the world. The result has been ‘hyper-connectedness’. That is, we are always ‘in touch’ with colleagues, friends and family. Increasingly, we are able to see what they are up to, their likes and dislikes and use this information to inform our own decision making.
‘Social Proof’, that is, what others say and do, has always been one of the most important influencers on human behaviour. As the combination of smart phones, together with social platforms, has made this ‘social proof’ more accessible, companies have been forced to take social media more seriously. Those who fail to do so, will increasingly find themselves losing competitive advantage to those organisations that understand its importance.
Smart phones have already made ‘context’ much more powerful in a company’s communications. With 24/7 access to all the information and opinions we are ever likely to use when making a purchasing decision, we are increasingly undertaking research ‘in the moment’. In other words, we no longer have to wait until we get back to the office or our home to start to look at the relevant options we have in any buying decision.
Companies that understand the context in which we look for their products and services, are much more likely to have effective communications that add value, resonate and consequently lead us to engage with them.
2013 started to see ‘wearable devices’ gain traction. Google launched ‘Google Glass’ while many firms introduced the market to a plethora of ‘smart watches’ and ‘wristbands’. While this technology is still in its infancy, 2014 will be the year that wearable technology starts to become more mainstream.
The reason why this is important for business, is that companies need to start thinking about the questions wearable technology will increasingly throw up for their organisations. There is the obvious one of company security. With more employees wearing technology that can take pictures, record conversations and access networks, companies will have to address the security implications for their own organisations. They will be forced to decide how some of these technologies will fit into any ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policies that their organisation currently operates.
Apart from the internal issues, there are other important considerations for companies moving into this brave new world. 2014 might not be the year businesses have the answers, however, without starting to ask the right questions, the danger is that they find themselves being left behind.
Companies should already be thinking about how they translate their ‘user experience’ between devices. For example, a prospect may access a website on their smart phone, then have another look when working on their laptop in the office. Finally, when getting home from work they may want to undertake some more reading on their tablet device. Businesses already need to try and find ways of offering a seamless experience between these devices. With wearable technology, this seamless ‘user experience’ is going to become even more of a challenge.
The opportunity with wearable devices, however, is formidable. They illustrate the growing integration of technology and human experience. Companies that can enrich their customers’ lives by adding value ‘in the moment’ have unprecedented opportunities to engage with their audience, keep their attention, become a central part of their customers’ lives and consequently increase customer loyalty and revenue.
Augmented Reality, whereby people can overlay computer generated images or audio on the real world, in order to enhance their environment is one opportunity. However, as wearable technology from watches and wristbands to glasses and clothing becomes ubiquitous over the next few years, companies will have to think about the relationship between technology, customers and their environment.
• How could people’s lives be made easier or more convenient?
• What information or filters would be useful at any given moment in time?
• How can any organisation provide richer, more powerful and more valuable customer experiences?
The companies that find the answers to these questions will be the ones to which the future belongs. 2014 will highlight that this journey has begun.