Accenture says that we’ve hit peak digital. We’ve come some so far that digital per se is no longer an enterprise differentiator, rather it’s table stakes, the standard ante for any business that wants to participate in the modern global economy. We are in a post-digital era.
Its latest report, The 2019 Accenture Technology Vision, deals explicitly with the post-digital theme and mutes the idea that success will be based on an organization’s ability to master a set of new technologies that can deliver personalised realities and experiences for customers, employees and business partners, namely social, mobile, analytics and cloud.
Further, there are five emerging technology trends that companies must address if they are to succeed. Here, Michael Biltz, managing director of the Accenture Technology Vision programme takes a deep dive on the second of these trends, Get to Know Me, examining the changing interactions that businesses are having with consumers as we approach the post-digital future.
Companies have always worked to understand what their customers want and need. But most pre-digital efforts in this space attempted to understand people by lumping them into buckets. How old is Mary? Where does she live? How much money does she make? These questions examine factors that people largely can’t control, and offer limited insight into what people truly want.
Now, companies have a much more powerful way to understand people: their Technology Identity. Technology is so ingrained in daily life that it is becoming a part of the modern consumer’s identity: I’m an iPhone user. I’m a PC owner. I love my smart assistant, but I won’t use it for health-related questions or interactions. I’ll only buy a car that supports Android Auto. I won’t use this service because it requires that I have an account with a social media company I don’t like.
The list of options goes on – all ways to understand people through something they choose to incorporate into their lives, or not, and how they choose to use it.
And increasingly, those technology choices define the way people interact with companies: whether it’s through devices and services that the company itself has created; via social media; or through an ecosystem the company partners with, technology is driving relationships with consumers. But the key is that with every new technology interaction companies not only get a clearer picture of a person’s defining characteristics, they also get an insight into who their customers really are.
With every choice, and every interaction, people leave behind digital footprints that allow companies to understand who their customers are a personal level: their wants, needs, and goals for themselves.
The market of one
Savvy organisations are realising that these emerging technology identities offer a powerful new perspective they can use to tailor their products and services. Much more than mere personalisation, technology identities give companies a way to provide individualised products and services for the long-chased market of one.
Like any powerful opportunity, though, this comes with an equally important new responsibility. Moving to serve the market of one means that ethical and privacy concerns now move to a market of one as well. Currently, most companies are searching for that elusive line on how much information is it OK to have about a person, and how they can use it.
But here is the secret: There is no single line. That line will be different each person. Individual people have individual lines of comfort with the amount of technology they incorporate into their lives, and how tailored their interactions with companies will be.
We call the balance between personalisation and privacy the “creepiness quotient”: just how individualised does a specific person want their interactions with you to be? “Get to Know Me” doesn’t stop at the technology people use. It means understanding how far they want you and your technology interwoven into their lives as well, at any moment in time.
Fortunately, technology identities give companies a way to understand and respect these boundaries too. If you can understand people’s technology choices, you can do more than identify what products and services they want. You can also understand how comfortable they are with you providing any potentially sensitive products and services to them. A big part of understanding people through technology is understanding just how much technology they want in their lives in the first place.
As you prepare for the post-digital future, it’s critical to remember: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Just how individualised of an offering should you create for a specific person? What ethical implications should you consider for each market of one opportunity? The technology identities that are created by consumer choice create a new array of choices for companies as well.
These aren’t easy choices. But in showing consumers that they truly understand their wants, needs, and level of comfort with individualised products and services, your company can establish itself as a trustworthy partner for the post-digital future.
Michael Biltz, managing director of Accenture Technology Vision
This article first appeared on LinkedIn and is reproduced here with permission.