New Tech, New X? How to Create Next-Gen Experiences That Put People First

As emerging technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence become the front line conversation for organizations, many find themselves challenged by a difficult balancing act: Maintaining their identity and humanity while realizing the full benefits of new tech.

“Get the balance right and technology can help brands push customer experiences to the next level,” is what PwC’s Global Chief Experience Officer David Clarke calls “magical engagements.”

When looking to implement a new technology, companies should first consider its desired impact, then design the tech to make that happen.

When looking to implement a new technology, companies should first consider its desired impact, then design the tech to make that happen. Executives should ask themselves what challenge are they looking to solve? Is the new technology additive to the customer experience? Is it designed to make the business more effective? Clarke shared that PwC surveyed more than 2,200 executives about what value they expect from their digital investments. In ranking their top three expectations, more than one-third said “create better customer experiences.”

Whatever the desired outcome, new tech cannot leave humans out of the equation. “If you’re going to have a customer experience that is differentiated from anybody else’s, it must be as real as possible,” Clarke says.

At media and technology company POPSUGAR Inc., the goal is to use AI and other tech to appeal to not only millennials but also Generation Z, a demographic that has grown up with the tech boom and embraced many aspects of it. Anna Fieler, POPSUGAR’s chief marketing officer, says the company’s approach to implementing AI is to emphasize immediacy, personalization and authenticity.

While AI is often used to help companies become more immediate and personal by curating content and targeting responses, the third prong of the equation is equally important, Fieler says.

“It’s about not getting your brand values lost even in the midst of all this machine-assisted experience,” she says. “It’s more important than ever to stay true to your brand, to be authentic.”

Deborah Curtis, vice president for entertainment marketing and sponsorships at American Express, agrees. At American Express, emerging technologies are designed to help humanize the experience, putting the customer at the center, she says. Knowing the roles machines and humans play – and how they can work together – is vital.

“As important as it is for us to be in these new emerging spaces, it’s as important for someone to be able to pick up the phone if they’re stranded somewhere and be able to talk to a human being,” she says.

In its sponsorship of the US Open tennis tournament, American Express has used virtual reality to let fans “play” tennis against virtual tennis stars. Curtis says the goal is to marry the right technology with the situation to create a unique experience. First, you must know the customer. Armed with that knowledge, you can pick the technology-based experience that will resonate.

David Shing, digital prophet for Oath, says companies must use technology in a way that does not feel out of touch. “We have more opportunity to deliver incredible experiences,” he says. “What we don’t have is an adoption of the hardware that feels like it’s authentic and humanized.”

When designing for the ideal experience, the challenge, Clarke says, is figuring out where in the process the technology fits. Often, companies figure out the technology before they decide how they are going to use it. Instead, they should first determine out how it is going to help the business grow, innovate or improve productivity, then work to make that happen, he says. By focusing on the human experience — how employees or customers interact with the technology every step of the way, companies can improve their chances of getting the formula right.

Using AI or other technologies to gather content and present it in more relevant ways, ways that connect with customers, remains the paramount challenge.

The companies who do it right – the ones that are able to monetize the exponential growth of data and content – are easy to spot. Using AI or other technologies to gather content and present it in more relevant ways, ways that connect with customers, remains the paramount challenge. In PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Survey, published earlier this year, it found that the most promising potential uses for AI in technology, media and communications industries was around media archiving and search, customized content creation, and personalized marketing.

To accelerate the process, Clarke says companies must break down silos and bring business, experience and technology together. “We call that formula BXT and when implemented, the results can be powerful.”

Using chatbots to answer customer service requests can make organizations more efficient, and can blur the lines between humans and machines. In some cases, Clarke said, consumers can’t tell if they’re talking to a person or a robot.

“I think there’s a certain point where we start to give up some of our control to intelligence, and when do we feel comfortable with that?” Clarke asks. “Would we feel comfortable having it making transactional decisions for us? Would we feel comfortable having it drive a car for us? There’s a fine line between creepy and cool, and I guess we’ll figure out what that line looks like very soon.”

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