In the near future, technology – specifically, technologies wrapped up as the Internet of Things (IoT) – will allow companies to give products their own voices and stories. This will give the products a perceived sense of agency, encouraging consumers to develop relationships with the items.
As with many new developments today, it’s the powerful technology in your pocket or on your wrist that will make this scenario a reality. Through accessing intelligence in the cloud, technology can now act as the conduit for conversations between objects and yourself.
But no single technology will create the perfect environment for dialogue to happen between products and people. It takes an orchestration of infrastructure, like Wi-Fi, near field communication, and bluetooth technology to pull this off. Once in place, the combination of those technologies will deliver content and conversations through the channels that consumers are most familiar with – messaging apps, email and social media platforms. This communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship, says J F Grossen, executive creative director at global design & strategy firm, frog design.
Bristol is a great example of using these technologies to bring a city to life: during the summer of 2013, Bristol developed a city-wide platform that animated its street furniture, allowing people to talk to various objects including lamp posts, post boxes, and manholes via text message.
Hello, it’s me.
Today we browse the Internet at bookmark or “pin” products we like. In the future this will be seen as saying hello, initiating a conversation with the product. It’s giving the product permission to reach out to you directly – not the retailer, not the brand, not some marketer in a glass windowed office park.
Location-based technologies help drive a different conversation based on proximity to the product: as you get closer to the product the messages get more inviting and personal. GPS can reach out to you as you drive past a store, encouraging you to go inside and meet the product “face-to-face.” Wi-Fi allows for in-store zoning to trigger notifications when nearing the product and in combination with other technologies such as Bluetooth or beacons can allow the product to give directions to where it lives in the store.
Once you are standing in front of the product face-to-face, the conversation can become more subtle and the interactions more hands-on. Scannable codes, like traditional barcodes and QR, or evolving image recognition, can trigger a more in-depth conversation between product and person. A scan of the barcode can trigger a facile dialogue about a product’s use, features and other family members or friends, while a physical tap with NFC can bring a deeper conversation about the product’s materials, origin, or the relationships (and reviews) in which the product has featured.
I know you.
All of these interactions need to be more than a one-way dialogue from product to person. We must perceive intelligence or a sense of understanding from the item. All the information necessary for this is available and accessible – not just patterns and preferences of the masses through Big Data, but also individuals desires from “Little Data,” or social media.
Facebook likes, Pinterest pins, Tinder swipes, Swarm check-ins – these all provide information about an individual that can add nuance to conversations. Even biometric data from FitBit can show when a person is excited about an item.
“Little Data” will give companies the ability to personalise conversations, to match people with products based on micro-patterns and context rather than tailor a conversation to a broad demographic. Advances in this area continue with the recent experiments with IBM’s Watson and the Havas Group in connecting social media data to provide marketers with insights on customer preferences.
Marketing on a person-to-product level is the future of targeted marketing. The technology is already in place to make this dialogue and interaction happen in a more human-like manner. And since a model for dating and building relationships with products has been identified, all we need is a new group of talent to bring voice to these products and colour to the conversations.
These new connected and ‘alive’ products will shift the way retailers sell – and consumers buy – the things they desire. Physical retail spaces will need to facilitate more social interactions and dating products. Loyalty programmes will need to shift focus from rewards points to rewarding relationships. That’s the next column…
The author of this blog is J F Grossen, executive creative director at global design & strategy firm, frog design
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