This article originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of the Shoptalk Speakers series.
When Marvel’s Iron Man hit theaters in 2008, those current and future engineers, developers and technology enthusiasts in the audience were treated to a glimpse of the future – and one promise of technology. JARVIS, a fully-integrated AI system became the holy grail of software development. And we’ve been driving towards that Vision ever since.
SIRI was released on the iPhone just 3 years later. IoT got steam with Nest. Bots went mainstream as part of messaging and mobile apps. The release of Amazon Echo (Alexa), Google Home, and LingLong DingDong (China’s equivalent of Alexa) brought the central hub for our own JARVIS-like personal assistants to millions of homes and is expected to spike in the next 4 years. Amazon alone is projected to sell 113 Million units by 2020.
Why are these devices so popular?
They save time and effort and there is the “cool” factor surrounding the latest tech gear. But, long term, its value resides in allowing us to convert our thoughts into actions and streamline processes when it comes to managing of our daily lives.
Simple tasks and reminders that we normally carry around can now be offloaded freeing up our minds to focus on higher-value operations. Milk almost empty? “Google, add milk to the shopping list”. Daughter’s boyfriend throwing pebbles at the upstairs window? “Alexa, turn on the sprinklers”. We’ve all seen the funny ads, but the power of these platforms is just beginning.
Why is this important to retailers?
Imagine being able to say “Alexa, ask Hanger to find a pair of shoes and a small purse to go with my Kate Spade dress for this weekend” and instantly getting recommendations from your favorite brands on your phone or nearest display.
Werner Reinartz wrote a great piece in Harvard Business Review discussing how the traditional consumption model for retail is changing. He states that “new technologies allow people to bring the purchase of the product that satisfies their need closer to their first perception of it… this makes the perception of the need the stage that marketers need to control”.
The Alexa example above is exactly what Reinartz is talking about – the future of retail is delivering the right products at the right price as close to the perception of the need as possible. And in some cases, with the right contextual understanding, allowing you to surface a need even before it’s perceived.
So how do retailers get the contextual understanding they need to deliver this type of engagement when consumers shop at so many different stores (online and offline) and no brands want to share their data? Turn to third-party platforms.
Hanger, and platforms like it, are giving consumers the ability to take control of their personal data by giving them free tools to track what they own, what they wear, and what they buy. Social interaction tools add influencer and inspiration context to the dataset, resulting in an extremely robust profile consumers can use to make better decisions about what they buy.
They can also choose to share that data in exchange for valuable services such as getting those highly personalized Kate Spade shoe and purse recommendations; or walking into a store and having the sales associate immediately know which items in their inventory best fit your style, size and price sensitivities; or having new outfit suggestions that pair new arrivals at Bloomingdales with items already in your closet. This is one-to-one marketing at scale – everything relevant and individualized.
Consumers are overwhelmed by the options available to them in the modern world. And they are even more overwhelmed by the amount of advertising. Emails arriving by the hour. Ads following them website to website – even after they’ve purchased the item. It’s too much. And people are tuning out and turning to services that do things for them. One-to-one marketing platforms bypass the noise and deliver valuable services.
If you want to reach the customer of the future, stop blasting the noise, and start listening. Invest in the technology, the machine learning, and the AI necessary to deliver real value back to your consumers. When they give you access to their data, deliver back exceptional recommendations and in-store experiences. Give your products digital tags so it’s easier for consumers to add to their personal inventory. Let them know product origins and source materials. It’s relevant and it matters.
They want the signal, the value, not the noise.
With every bot, function and integration developers create today, another synapse of artificial intelligence lights up and the closer we get to JARVIS. If you can deliver services to that system and provide real value to your customers, you will cement your future. If not, there won’t be another medium coming along to catch up.
Daniel Evans is the Co-Founder & CEO of Hanger. Daniel discusses retail technology, machine learning, entrepreneurship, and marketing-at-scale on Twitter and LinkedIn. To learn more about Hanger, visit hanger.io.