Last week I spoke at the Adobe Summit 2016 where I examined what the Fourth Industrial Revolution would mean for consumer-facing businesses. It’s not easy to condense the implications of a large paradigmatic shift into under an hour, but when we examine the future of industry and customer expectation through the wider lenses of experience, service and mass communication, it’s very clear that we’re already starting to see some of the changes that we think the Fourth Industrial Revolution will usher in.
I’ve talked elsewhere about what the 4th Ind Rev means specifically for brands and retailers, but I wanted to open up the conversation more into other parts of consumers’ lives, including entertainment, e-commerce and the home. There are many trends and applications of new technologies that are already starting to affect consumer behaviour.
For example, the idea of anticipatory intelligence, where data-capturing systems are put in place to predict and pre-empt a customer’s next move before they know it themselves. We’ve seen this with Huge Cafe, a coffee shop that familiarises itself with a customer’s everyday routine to nudge them into making their usual order.
We’re also seeing personalised in-situ production in the final steps of a customer’s journey. Take AlpStories’ sophisticated robot, which mixes chemicals from scratch, right in the store, to create bespoke cosmetics for its customers based on their personal data.
And finally, there is the idea of technology having the capacity to deliver contrasting experiences. On the one hand, there is the theatricality and ultra-sensoriality that virtual reality can offer, and on the other, there are more functional technologies, such as chatbots and the growing Ifthisthenthat movement, which meet customer needs as quickly and efficiently as possible.
These examples of technology’s possibilities affect experiences, services, and how we can connect and communicate as a whole. Therefore, there are three things to learn and expect from what the 4th Ind Rev will bring for the retail landscape of tomorrow:
Firstly, experiencing-making will only get smarter and more sophisticated. Whether it’s creating one’s own 360-degree footage from the palm of your hand with a Samsung Gear 360 camera, or a tourist board enabling potential visitors to vicariously experience the hot sands and the sea breeze of a Caribbean island, new expressions of reality will succeed. How can your brand keep up to create spellbinding experiences?
The future is always messy. Therefore, it’s important to consider what service solutions are appropriate for different customer scenarios. Robots and AI will have their role in customer service, so will people. Whether using pure tech, people enhanced by technology, or a combination of the two, expectations need to be managed.
Finally, content may be king, but context is King Kong. Context will dramatically transform our understanding and standard of personalisation. Future communication will address intricate variables such as location, time, mission and mood in order to better meet a customer’s needs.
The overarching take away is that these technologies will only advance and accelerate. There’s never been a more pressing time to direct your energies and efforts so that your brand can innovate and lead with this new wave of industrialisation. The faces of retail and hospitality will never be the same again.