In the age of the Digital Era, it’s a little ironic, though not surprising, that customers crave personal brand relationships. While almost every touchpoint along the path to purchase can be automated now, it’s more imperative than ever before to cultivate client connections that are anything but cold and impersonal. We might be letting robots and virtual assistants take over some business operations, but at the crux of our companies, we must remember that the trends changing customer interaction are everything.
That said, there are a few new products that are totally changing the game. These smart tools might be tech-savvy and innovative, but they’re arguably our greatest assets when it comes to building loyal brand communities of engaged and excited followers.
Innovation That Solves Client Pain Points
While this is one that will look different for every industry, the top way that companies are leveraging smart technology is to meet their customers right where they are and address some major pain points along the way. Many of these products fall under the smart home category, as demonstrated by this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
From a smart clothespin that affixes to your clothesline to monitor weather conditions and tell you when it’s the best time to do laundry to a washer and dryer system from Whirlpool that syncs with your Apple watch and Alexa home system to alert you when it’s time to change cycles, there’s virtually no limit to what brands can achieve. The key? Consider your audience base, and what their frustrations might be with your industry. Then, seek to integrate technology that can offer a viable and valuable solution.
Smart Packaging That Delivers
One way to boost customer loyalty and improve retention rates? Make sure your customers know they can trust both you and the products or services you deliver. One way to do so is to incorporate smart packaging into your delivery operations. For example, one Polish-based company created a “Talkin’ Things” label that utilizes Near Field Communication technology.
When customers receive a shipment in the mail, they can scan the label and quickly discern whether or not the product is genuine or counterfeit. They can also learn important product information, such as sealing integrity and expiration date, with a quick scan. The label, designed to feature NFC technology as well as Radio-Frequency Identification, cloud computing and mobile app capabilities, was a finalist for last year’s NFC Innovation Award.
This type of label is especially effective for brands in the food and hospitality niche, as well as pharmaceuticals. By protecting brand integrity and bolstering customer security, it offers a creative new way for customers to connect and stay informed at the same time.
Online Community Forums That Engage
Want your customers and brand advocates to feel like they’re truly a part of your company? Why not allow them a firsthand look into your development process, and allow them to try their hand at creating some new product lines?
Forward-thinking companies such as LEGO and DEWALT are doing just that. The former hosts its LEGO Ideas online community, wherein members can submit renderings of their ideas for new game set creations. In a similar vein, DEWALT’s Insight Community is full of more than 10,000 end users who offer product feedback, ideas for new developments, and worksite challenges they’d like to see addressed.
While the technology might not be cutting edge, this innovative use of online member forums certainly is. It’s also smart, as it allows brands a firsthand look at their customer base, and there’s no sharper assessment tool than a first-person anecdote of a specific challenge that only your brand can solve.
Another benefit to this type of system? It allows you to recognize loyal and active customers. For instance, LEGO reviews all product submissions that get more than 10,000 fan votes on the Ideas community. When a winner is chosen, that person’s name is affixed on all product packaging and marketing. He or she even gets a cut of the profits! Talk about an incentive worth going after.
Beacon Technology That Alerts Customers to Promotions
Here’s a question for brick-and-mortar businesses: How many times have you ran a company-wide promotion and expected a ton of foot traffic, only to come up short? If that scenario sounds familiar, your marketing strategy might not be solely to blame. It’s likely that people simply didn’t know you were holding the sale, or weren’t alerted in time to stop in.
Beacon technology is out to change that reality. Stores can affix these tiny beacons to the outside of their storefronts to learn when someone is walking by who might find the promotion attractive. Powered by Bluetooth technology, these allow you to send a discount code or other special incentive to someone standing directly outside of your door.
Moreover, they’re also great tools for customer analytics. Using the data gathered by the Bluetooth beacon, retailers can quickly see the effectiveness of each promotion. Was there a particular time of day that they worked better? What about appealing to certain age groups or other demographics?
Virtual Reality That Lets Customers Try Before They Buy
While e-commerce is booming, research reveals that 65% of customers would rather come into a physical store to make a purchase. Why? There’s a hands-on tangibility to in-store retail that cannot be replicated on a screen, no matter how fancy the graphics or how advanced the HTML.
As such, many companies are merging the two worlds, offering customers a smart and immersive in-store experience that leverages the latest and greatest in technology advancement, all while catering to the fact that they’re there in person. One way they’re achieving this balance is through the use of virtual reality systems.
From dressing rooms that let you see how an item of clothing will look in various forms of lighting to smart mirrors that let you visualize yourself in a particular setting, such as on a beach, wearing an outfit, these tools are taking the user experience to an entirely different level.
Even if you’re not selling clothing, consider how virtual reality can benefit your customer experience, and whether or not it’s worth the investment to both impress your client base and keep happy customers coming back for more.
Standing Out and Building Brand Love in 2018
Customers now have access to virtually any piece of information they might need, right at their fingertips. Moving forward, successful companies will be those that recognize this potential and leverage new, smart technology to create more meaningful and impactful client relationships.
Digital functionality is becoming sharper and more advanced than ever before, but standing out as a brand doesn’t just mean buying the best systems out there. It means using them strategically to engage clients, build brand loyalty, and improve satisfaction ratings for now and for years to come.