For Joakim Everstin, the future is a source of fascination and optimism. He expects significant advancements in digitisation, opening dramatic new opportunities and changes in the commercial space. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence will allow consumers to identify goods and services in ways that today oftentimes seem clumsy and irrelevant. Digitisation, precision marketing, the immediate procurement of goods and services, and the underlying financial transactions that drives these trends will change the face of commerce in the years to come. Much of the technology is already here and being deployed in different ways by different companies. The emerging trend in digitisation is the use of technologies such as blockchain to bind consumers and suppliers together on a scale that has not yet been realised.
Mr. Everstin, Chief Innovation Officer at Snowfall and head of Snowfall Labs, has been helping companies identify trends in technology over the past several years. In his current role, as well as his previous one as Head of Innovation, EMEA with Sabre, his reflections have focused on how consumers use technology, how these advances translate into behaviours, and how companies can approach the change. To Mr. Everstin, the patterns start to become clear when we take a holistic look at how technology is advancing.
The change begins when we look at how people are using technology to replace activities they otherwise manage offline today. According to Mr. Everstin, when people embrace technology to manage an ever-increasing volume of transactions, their buying habits start to expose personal trends. When these transactions are coupled with information on geographic location and planned or recently experienced activities identified via social media, task lists, ticket sales, or any number of other indicators, microtrends and opportunities begin to appear.
The use of these data elements leads to precision sales opportunities, which draws value through Big Data. These micro opportunities today are undetectable to the supplier, and oftentimes are seen as a marketing nuisance to the buyer. The future however, looks much more promising.
A small scale but practical example that Mr. Everstin cites can be seen in Walt Disney World’s introduction of the MagicBand. The MagicBand’s direct customer benefits are ones of convenience. It can be used as a hotel key, to purchase goods and services, and to help identify a person should Disney staff need to find them for any reason. The MagicBand also creates a limited but meaningful set of Big Data to create an improved user experience in a subtle, non-intrusive way. The MagicBand is fitted with radio frequency electronics that tell Disney where crowds are moving within the Magic Kingdom. These signals create macro trends, allowing the park for example to identify crowds and waiting lines, and provide the ability to shift characters, vendors, and even music and other forms of entertainment to ensure the visitors are well tended to. In this sense, the use of Big Data helps the park enhance the customer experience, whilst also providing the company with additional concession sales which may otherwise have been lost.
The Internet of Things and Big Data have the ability to generate data which can provide a similar experience outside the confines of a theme park. When everyday items are barcoded, they can generate data, or when they are otherwise linked to apps on mobile devices, similar experiences can be provided for consumers.
Reordering of products, soliciting services, and other transactions are achieved through clicking a button, scanning a code, or simply telling your mobile phone what you want. Mr Everstin sees the mass data generation the Internet of Things creates will ultimately streamline the transactions we make every day, and integrate the activities into a more convenient and value adding experience.
Greater integration of the world around us with our personal devices can enhance these opportunities. Within the travel industry, rather than focusing exclusively on seatback screens, American Airlines has begun streaming content on flights directly to their passengers’ devices, or offering passengers the ability to rent mobile devices. This integration turns the users’ own devices into an integral component of the flight experience, and again allows for greater passenger convenience. Mr Everstin believes that ultimately opportunities such as these will become more commonplace, and the enhanced user experience will drive where developments take hold. Further, whereas technology advances have in the past disproportionally benefitted younger users, age will over time become less of a factor in terms of which users take advantage of technology. The primary driver will become how people want to experience the world around them.
As vendors learn how best to react to consumers’ use of technology, fundamental changes will force them to adapt. Mr. Everstin believes this will be particularly pronounced in the banking sector. Financial institutions will find their role in personal banking evolving as technology takes users in directions that are not directly managed by the banks themselves. While mobile payment applications are managed by banks, the banks themselves are becoming a less visible component between the vendor and the consumer.
Much of the future value banks begin to provide will be as brokers of data in increasingly integrated and complex transactions across multiple vendors. It is in this area where blockchain will begin to diffuse some of the traditional roles of the bank, and push them ever more deeply towards data management and integration. Leveraging massive data throughputs will also allow banks to become more precise and spontaneous with financing opportunities presented to customers. Rather than today’s world which relies heavily on personal relationships with bank staff, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics will allow for quicker and more relevant customer selling. Integration with other sources of data will further enhance these opportunities. And it will also increase competition, which will put further pressure on banks to automate and digitally integrate their transactions.
Ultimately, the significant opportunities offered by digitisation will lead to ever greater user experiences. But it will also create greater risks as data security become significantly more fundamental to how people engage with the world around them. Although it is unclear exactly how this risk will be met, the nature of data and transactions will change which Mr. Everstin says will lead to potential answers. Opportunities and offers will become far more time bound and more directly related to the current user experience. This places a different limitation on what data can be used for and how it can be used. But ultimately a new type of security industry is waiting to be born which supports this rapidly changing environment. The amount of value that will be realised through digitisation will generate significant opportunities for those organisations that are prepared to address the needs of everyone involved in the digital marketplace. It is an area with seemingly few answers, but ample potential for growth.
Ultimately digitisation is inevitable in Mr. Everstin’s view, and the benefits will far outweigh the risks. The significant conveniences and efficiencies that technological enhancements provide, continue to expose new frontiers and opportunities. Inasmuch as changes are inevitable and the exact path is unclear, what is apparent is technology will continue to bridge people and the world around us in ever more meaningful ways.
- Data generated through apps and e-commerce is driving innovative and more relevant, personally tailored consumer marketing.
- Banks and online service providers are increasingly innovating and competing over how financial transactions and markets are run.
- The way data is used will evolve, meaning the IT security threats of tomorrow will be different than what we see today.
The author is Jason Walsh.