The post-phone marketing revolution

Digital assistants, voice recognition capabilities and wearable tech means we’re entering a post-phone world, says Michael Buckley. Here’s his next steps for brands aiming to deliver on the ever-evolving expectations of digital consumers.

The craze surrounding the launch of Apple’s new iPhone X marks the tenth anniversary since the arrival of the smartphone, which has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the digital world and transformed the way we work, play, learn and communicate.

In today’s digital age, smartphones are ubiquitous, and while the iPhone X may be slightly larger than its predecessors, the screen size of our portals to the internet has certainly shrunk over time. What constitutes ‘digital’ is no longer limited to interactions that take place on a phone or desktop.

As technology evolves and non-digital devices have internet capabilities, human-computer interaction will soon be screen-less, that is, activated by voice or location. These factors are contributing to a new digital landscape known as a ‘post-phone’ world.

This transition is coming into effect rapidly and Accenture Interactive believes brands need to start preparing for the next evolution in how they reach their customers. Research from Gartner reveals that by the end of this decade at least 30% of human-computer interaction will be screenless.

The use of voice-activated technology is on the rise with a recent survey from Accenture showing 84% of 14-to-17 year olds currently use or are interested in using the voice-enabled digital assistant in their smartphone. At home, Australian consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the introduction of voice-activated technologies, thanks to Amazon’s Alexa device and Google Home. Brands like Southern Cross Austereo have begun to adapt by introducing a news service for Google’s Assistant suite, which will provide consumers with up to six updates a day.

eBay also announced in November that it had teamed up with Google’s AI-powered virtual assistant so that Australian consumers can buy directly from their Google Home, demonstrating their belief that this type of interaction will continue to grow. The imminent launch of the new Apple Watch Series Three with LTE cellular connectivity, allowing phone calls, text messages and playing music, will make a significant entry to the market as the first truly post-phone internet device.

Emerging digital technologies will play bigger roles in customers’ interactions with brands, from shopping in augmented reality to browsing the web without a screen and interacting with computer-based applications instead of humans, as voice technology becomes more pervasive in our lives.

Ikea recently held an exhibition in Melbourne to preview its augmented reality experience available on its new app Ikea Place. The arrival of these technologies marks a significant challenge for current marketing practises and an inevitable shift that will rewire marketing and experience design as we know it.

As consumers become more comfortable with digital assistants, and less dependent on the screens on their phones, Accenture Interactive believes brands face the most significant challenge over the coming decade. As this new channel rapidly expands, brands have to adapt to an environment where they have even less control. Importantly, the interruptive model of paid advertising won’t work as consumers become increasingly adept at filtering out these messages.

To successfully navigate marketing in a post-phone world, brands have to intuitively adapt to time, place and situation to ensure they are creating value-added, nonintrusive experiences. They will also need to create a new generation of internet-enabled ‘anticipatory’ services that will replace traditional advertising and engage with customers. These new services will be developed using insights derived by machine learning, making personalised product recommendations and selections that will ultimately enable trust from customers to allow brands to match them with the right products and services.

As AI will be the key enabler to achieving hyper personalised services in a post-phone world, Accenture Interactive has outlined next steps for brands to deliver on the ever-evolving digital consumers’ expectations:

Have a clear plan to drive adoption

Brands need to make customers aware of and encourage the use of digital channels. Customer benefits must be clear and ideally encouraged with incentives to drive participation in initial trials.

Operate cross-channel metrics and improvements

Brands can identify opportunities for improvement by understanding how customers use multiple channels across different customer journeys. Analytics can help identify reasons why customers move between channels, helping to increase first time resolution or use of new channels.

Be focused

While some brands’ immediate response is to provide many digital tools that can serve all customers and services, successful companies take a more focussed approach. By starting with a targeted customer group and a limited set of functions, companies can move faster, learn and improve before deciding if and how to roll out the new digital service to a larger consumer group.

Challenge what’s possible

Technology advances are allowing for new interactions to become possible, lifting constraints from earlier policies and processes to make way for innovation.

Experiment and learn

Brands need to treat new services as though they are experiments by developing and testing an idea to discern the demand and allow for changes to be made. Speed, learning and adaptation are key. Metrics are less about traditional indicators such as ROI, but instead about adoption rates and customer usage behaviour.

Digital technologies will continue to change the role and boundaries of marketing in the Australian landscape. Brands that want to lead the future of digital interaction in a post-screen world must excel by building a solid digital foundation with today’s tools like artificial intelligence and speech recognition, while shaping services of the future. Brands can start to create a solid digital foundation by keeping the customer experience at the forefront and having a clear plan to drive customer adoption and operating cross-channel metrics.

Customer experience is the new battleground and Australian brands need to focus on specific innovations, challenge possibilities and have a willingness to experiment and learn.