Technology trends in customer engagement

Jon Sherrington

Owner, Strategist, Writer – Hydrogen Creative Inc.

May 1996 – Present

My role is to provide strategic marketing guidance to clients to ensure their objectives are attainable, remain in focus and the communications solutions work.

My expertise is in how to realign goals-oriented brands, products, services or businesses to customer values to build loyalty, frequency and continuity.



Technology trends in customer engagement

Commentary inspired by Fast Company (May 2015) – Reinventing Happiness: Inside Disney’s radical plan to modernize its theme parks.

I found it fascinating to read Disney World’s hesitant adoption of the MyMagic+, innovating smart armbands that would help improve the flow of traffic through the park, personalize customer engagement, and optimize incremental revenue through real-time data analytics.

The main obstacle to progress did not come from finance, IT or infrastructure but from the core architects of the Disney Experience known as ‘Imagineers’. The Imagineers’ mission is to make sure that the Disney experience is direct, intimate, authentic and the magic is ‘invisible’. Their objection was: when the interface is intrusive it changes the experience.

Are Disney’s Imagineers out of synch with the demographic trend? Our marketplace is excited by devices, generating a new order of billionaires and world’s largest companies. Can customer experience without devices be so incomparably better that we would forego the latter to experience the former?

What if a store requires you to wear an interactive armband: to find you special deals on items you previously purchased, to keep you up-to-date on new items in stock, to let you scan all the items in your basket and debit your credit card on leaving the store, saving you on average 15 mins per visit? It will also build up a history on your customer activity, credit history and restrict access to the store if there are any past issues. Next door is a regular store.

Which store you choose may have more to do with your demographic than calculated benefits. If you are a Millenial your world is a composite of smart devices, and conforming to their rules is the price you pay for the convenience you seek. If you are Gen-X you may still be clinging to a time of not-forgotten innocence with some resistance to the dissociated engagement of digital devices. The regular store has appeal.

Arguably, our impulse to live through our devices is a form of ‘hallucenogenic therapy without chemicals’, where the digital experience is more richly-enhanced than reality. It is addictive, the rewards are immediate, gratifying and software developers keep adding features to bind us more closely to the interface. Visitors to Disney can now wave their Magic Armband and have the World respond to them. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice gets a wand.

Is there greater benefit when the customer experience is fully-immersive? Are we losing the thread of human experience being conditioned to intrusive interfaces? The Imagineers want to see technology at a subliminal level, but I wonder if it is not simply an issue of control. Whoever holds the remote chooses the channel. In the advancement of technology in customer engagement, providing the customer with their own interface does not necessarily create distance, it hands over control.

From a customer experience perspective, the more choices I give a customer, the more I hold their attention. Consumers are choosing machines. Devices are enabling customers to make more choices in how they engage, and brands are learning that relinquishing control can mean more benefits. Or rather, the appearance of relinquishing control, as all choices converge on the interests of the brand.

If there is a moral lesson, it might be that, in a world where all expectations can be met, control is comfortably surrendered. Call it Paradise, or Disney World in eyes of the Imagineers. But in a world where customers are more trusting when they have their hands on the wheel, you need to give them something to steer with. This is the dichotomy of the MyMagic+ case study. Let the results speak for themselves.

Written By   Jon|Brand Integrity, Customer Experience, Customer Focus, In the News, Marketing Strategy, Relationship Marketing|Comments Off on Technology trends in customer engagement
Written By   Jon|Brand Integrity, Customer Experience, Customer Focus, In the News, Marketing Strategy, Relationship Marketing|Comments Off on Technology trends in customer engagement

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