Yesterday’s Science Fiction Is Today’s Customer Engagement Tool

Michele Hackshall

Technology is moving so fast, it can be hard to keep up. Just look at science fiction from the last millennium—things we only imagined then are now a reality. Star Trek featured tablets almost 30 years ago. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey featured voice interaction software (“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”). Even The Jetsons had video phones way back in 1962.

And although movies like Terminator, Blade Runner, and Westworld showed scary outcomes, the reality is that AI offers exciting opportunities for organizations. Jamie Anderson, CMO of SAP Hybris, discussed exactly this at the keynote for the SAP Hybris LIVE: Digital Summit. Talking to a global online and physical audience in Singapore, his main theme is that the digital economy moves fast, and businesses need to be both agile and flexible to stay ahead of the competition.

“Business agility is absolutely key in this economy because customers themselves are harder to engage then they’ve ever been,” he says. “If you look at the customer today, 99.7% are ignored because they are largely irrelevant and driven by data that’s already out of date.”

Adapting to such a fast-paced marketplace is a constant challenge. There so many ways that customers interact with brands: through social media platforms, online forums, and e-stores, along with visiting physical shops and seeing ads on TV and in magazines. This awareness is now very much part of the journey.

The goal, therefore, is to differentiate your business from the competition by improving how you engage with customers. It’s critical to stay ahead of disruption and embrace the technology that’s available.

Today’s customer journey is multifaceted. While many CRM systems follow a funnel method of driving awareness, interest, desire, and action, the buying process is actually much more complicated and dynamic. A potential customer may change direction several times between the various stages, so expecting them to follow a process you have designed and need them to stick to means you’re not meeting their expectation of enjoying a great experience.

These journeys are also completely non-linear. Each one is unique, and organizations need every channel to be a service channel. “There needs to be intelligence behind every channel, which is again where things like artificial intelligence and machine learning come in. There has to be a response mechanism and intelligence baked into every channel because customer service and experience is absolutely key,” Anderson explains.

Engagement is the key. These capabilities are now available to create meaningful experiences. One area this can be seen is through the fusing of the physical with the digital world. Through reward cards, you can build context that will help customers save time. You can serve the customer more effectively.

The onus then is on businesses to use artificial intelligence as a tool to respond to customers in real time. For example, reward cards are very common now, but how much of the data and technology available is used to its full potential? Are enterprises missing a trick?

Businesses could certainly do more with the tools they already have at their disposal. Take the example of rewards programs, and imagine a world where a customer walks into a store and the employees can see their purchase history in real time – and they can look at their abandoned shopping carts, too, to better understand their needs. This information can be used to easily and discreetly build a customer profile that delivers a great experience and saves time. Discounts can be offered in real time, while sales staff can offer assistance that’s individualized.

Anderson believes that it’s AI that will push businesses ahead, and it must permeate through every customer experience. “There needs to be intelligence behind every channel, which is again where things like artificial intelligence and machine learning come in. There has to be a response mechanism and intelligence baked into every channel because customer service and experience is absolutely key.”

Being ahead of the disruption offers organisations a chance to thrive. It’s no longer science fiction, and it shouldn’t be feared. Businesses who are ready to move ahead and embrace the technology will better serve their customers and therefore succeed.

For more on how technology is impacting the retail industry, see Rewriting The Rules Of Retail.


Michele Hackshall

About Michele Hackshall

Michele Hackshall is a writer who helps global brands hone their marketing communications. Over the past two decades she’s managed product launches, strategized campaigns and written everything from scripts and adverts through to annual reports and press releases. Since becoming a freelancer in 2013, she’s focused on project managing the case studies program for Twitter’s emerging markets, through digital marketing agency Wings4U.