We not only live in a world of billions of smartphones, but we now also live in a world of sensors, soon to number in the trillions.
As smartphones start to really live up their name, new models are being outfitted with an increasing number of sophisticated sensors that can pick up cues from a user’s immediate environment. Samsung’s Galaxy S4, for instance, has nine sensors that provide a glimpse into someone’s physical world. Apart from embedded smartphone sensors, there are external sensors -- from iBeacons to connected devices within the internet of things category.
People are moving through their daily lives with a great variety of sensors on and around them -- in their homes and cars and the stores they walk into. Marketers need to tap into the treasure trove of sensor data to inform their dialogue with customers and create highly relevant, personal and intimate interactions.
At no other time in history have companies been able to learn so much about their consumers, the actions they take and circumstances they open, tweet, click, "like," redeem, book or buy. Here are five ways companies can leverage smart sensors to create great customer experiences:
1. The traffic-jam experience. Many companies have started using location sensors for geotargeting, but as this tactic is used more frequently, marketers will need to push the creativity envelope further than simply accessing consumers' whereabouts.
A smartphone’s GPS sensor provides a window into what is happening around a person. Marketers can tap into third-party data streams like nearby traffic conditions, transit disruptions and other real-time situational factors to personalize and contextualize interactions. What’s more powerful? “Enjoy $1 off coffee today” or “Interstate 85 is experiencing heavy delays due to an accident. Enjoy $1 off a coffee. It’s going to be a long ride.”
2. The highness experience. In office buildings, malls, airports and other multistory structures, altimeter sensors measuring elevation can let companies know not only that a person is on a block or near a building but also the floor they took the elevator to. As more companies try to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores through mobile devices, leveraging altitude as a trigger for campaigns will provide more accurate and intriguing messaging. (“Look up. We’re right above you. Visit us and earn double loyalty points.”)
3. The emotionally distressed experience. If someone is having a bad day, his or her spouse may steer clear or try to bring cheer via a gift or a compliment. From Intel to Samsung, the biggest technology companies are developing tools that can infer emotions by assessing how hastily a person types and mistakes made as well as by using cameras to read the mood on a face.
Marketers could develop interactions with customers to play on certain attitudes and try to turn moods around. If people received a free gift from a company when they were having a rough week, their brand loyalty might be boosted.
Companies will also be able to anticipate consumers’ emotional state (like dreading the dentist or stressing over a board meeting) based on their attitude historically to certain weather or to types of calendar appointments. Analyzing the results of emotion-based campaigns will be critical on an individual level, though, since everyone responds differently to stress or angst. Some people might be annoyed by a company's intervention effort, though, while others would welcome it.
4. The speed experience. Movement, speed and orientation data available through accelerometer and gyroscope sensors can provide interesting insights for triggering campaigns. A company wouldn't want to distract consumers with a push alert as they drove a highway at 60 mph. This would promote bad driving and people are likely to ignore the message. Mobile interactions should occur when people can give proper attention, like when they window-shop or stop for lunch.
Use of orientation data can also help keep marketing budgets in check. instead of targeting all individuals nearby, marketers can use sensors to send offers to people walking away from a store who've not come in and thereby increase the return on investment.
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5. The hot and wet experience. Heat, humidity and pressure sensors provide precise readings of environmental conditions related to a person’s exact location. Active-lifestyle marketers can tap into temperature and hygrometer sensors to suggest real-time modifications to someone's workout based on past performance in specific situations. ("You may want to slow down. We are at 83 percent humidity.")
Retailers, consumer-packaged goods companies, travel and food and beverage firms can self-police how often they reach out to customers by using historical performance data; thus the companies can push messages only when they are hyperrelevant and likely to drive action. If a coffeehouse obtains better results from iced-coffee promotions when it’s hotter than 85 degrees, it should not target people in conditions below this threshold.
Data from sensors is not enough, of course. The interactions that will have the biggest impact and drive the best results will be those that are highly personal, not just highly contextual. This evolving "system of engagement layer" of smart interaction lives on top of all existing tech systems from companies and is the future of customer relationships.