Changing customer expectations are driving the way companies are using technology.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence, voice optimization and augmented reality are among the technologies that companies are using to meet customer demands, said Nikki Vegenski, vice president of marketing and strategy at PowerChord in St. Petersburg.
The digital brand management company is among many observers weighing in on what’s likely to shake up the way companies do business in 2019.
PowerChord looked at the upcoming year from the perspective of its customers, which are companies with hundreds or thousands of dealer distributors or franchisees, such as STIHL, an outdoor power equipment manufacturer, or Kohler, which sells generators.
PowerChord provides a software-as-a-service product that controls the brand’s message all the way down to the local dealer level. Individual dealers’ websites look very similar or identical, with digital marketing done at the local level.
Those web properties are collecting vast amounts of data, which is where machine learning and artificial intelligence come into play, Vegenski said.
“Living in the world of an empowered consumer, customer expectations are that if I’m going to see an advertisement it better be personalized to me, tailored to me, hyper-relevant to me in my world, otherwise I’m out. I’m not going to engage with you. I’m not going to give you my business,” she said. “What I see when it comes to machine learning and artificial intelligence is leveraging that data both for our software solution and for our digital advertising here at PowerChord, and I hope all marketers are thinking that way. We can use that data to develop hyper-relevant consumer experiences for brands locally.”
PowerChord can place tracking pixels within a website that make note of visitors and what they looked at. If the visitor leaves the website without making a purchase, the data can be used to put different types of advertisements in front of that visitor. If he or she follows up with a visit to a store and provides an email address, the store gets insight into the metrics that brought the potential customer through the door, and the brand can determine a perfect formula for a marketing mix to reach their customer base, Vegenski said.
“It’s about using the data to get actionable insights so we can develop the right customer journey,” she said. The data also gives brands information that helps them determine their return on investment in marketing.
Augmented reality, which imposes a computer-generated image on the user’s view of the real world, goes hand-in-hand with the concept of the empowered consumer.
“It’s no longer linear advertising. A brand can’t show you an ad and expect you to come in and buy the product,” Vegenski said. “You want to feel it, you want to touch it, you want to experience it, and you want to do that in your own way, on your own time and that’s where augmented reality is a game-changer.”
For example, customers considering buying a generator from Kohler can use AR to know what it looks like on the side of their home.
“It’s no longer a brand selling to their customers. It’s about saying come on in, let me show you what this means for you,” she said.
Another key focus is voice optimization, or online searches that are initiated by a voice command. About half of all online searches are expected to be driven by voice in 2020, according to Campaign.
“People aren’t typing in [search terms] anymore,” Vegenski said. “They’re talking in Siri, Alexa, Google Home. What we are doing is preparing our systems and our advertising to be prepared for that. There’s a lot of work that goes into that but making sure we are going to be there for however customers are searching in their customer journey, whether that’s researching to purchase, even just casual reading.”
Owners of voice-activated speakers want several types of information from brands, according to a blog post by PowerChord. Over half — 52 percent — want information about deals, sales and promotions. Forty-eight percent want personalized tips to make their lives easier, 42 percent want to know about upcoming events or activities, 39 percent want options to find business information such as store hours, and 38 percent want access to customer service or support.
PowerChord, which was founded in 2001, is among the largest software developers in the area based on number of local employees, according to Tampa Bay Business Journal research. The company currently has about 75 employees, most of them at its headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg, and plans to bring on about 20 more this year, Vegenski said.