Steven Webster - MSFT
Posted on 09/25/13

At Ad Week, my colleague Natasha Hritzuk and I had the pleasure of revealing some new digital consumer trends from a recent study we conducted with IPG. As Natasha commented in her blog post, we were taken by the extent to which two of the trends – Enhancing the Real and Value Me– helped us solve for unmet consumer needs that we revealed in our study of consumers’ retail decision journeys.

Within our broader Marketing Solutions organization, there is a symbiotic relationship between the consumer insights team that Natasha leads, and the Experience Design team that I lead, within our broader Marketing Solutions organization. We now jointly present to brands and their agencies as “Insights-powered Experiences”. We made this shift because we both recognized that consumer insights, while a fundamental part of revealing unmet consumer needs, only get us part of the way there. It’s critical to leverage insights to build digital experiences that meet these needs. We incorporated our findings from our IPG digital consumer trend study, particularly around Enhancing the Real and Value Me. The result: truly engaging experiences that more effectively introduce consumers to the marketers able to serve them.

As designers and design thinkers, my team are advocates for the end-user. Our criteria for success is simple: the experience we deliver to consumers must be useful, useable and desirable. When we are trying to design experiences that connect marketers to consumers, we place a strain on desirability – otherwise, we are at risk of presenting brands at the wrong time, or in the wrong context.

Before digital, marketing was invented because markets were mute. Marketing put volume and messaging into the market because individuals were unable to speak for themselves. Digital marketing today is very much anchored in this notion, of capturing attention of consumers, with targeting focused on finding the consumers who are most likely to be attentive to your message, and personalization a strategy to address their inattention with relevance.

But in the digital economy, consumers have means to express their needs, their preferences, and the terms on which they are willing to engage with a brand and reveal deeply personal information about themselves.

As the Value Metrend reveals, consumers are asking us for permissioned experiences. If we dial-down the extent to which we are vying for their attention, they will share with us their intention. And they know that sharing their personal information in a trusted way with brands in the context of and for the duration of a particular transaction, will empower the brand to serve them more effectively. They know that the value to them, is that they will be empowered to make the right decisions. Yet, as marketers we are so busy collecting data about people, we forget we can just ask them for it.

Let me take you through one of the examples we shared today on stage at Ad Week.

The “Value Me” trend in the context of the “Shopping” phase of the Retail Journey

When we listen to consumer needs during the typically in-store shopping phase of their retail journey, we hear a need for an environment free of pressure from sales people, where they can serve themselves with online research, and ensure they are buying the product that is right for them.

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For customers considering a purchase like a television, we imagine a permissioned experience, where the intimacy of their mobile phone as a device that knows so much about them, can “pair” with the television they are considering. This allows us to think about how their phone could be a remote control for the television they’re viewing in store. By sharing their personal viewing history –the programs they regularly record, or their viewing history for example – we can provide simple buttons on their phone that allow them to “view baseball” if they are baseball fans, or view “video games” if they log hours online playing video games on Xbox Live.

 

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With some context on their viewing habits, we can then demystify the complexity and terminology of a TV purchase. Knowing that a consumer is a baseball fan, they can be told “the faster refresh rate of the other model of this television is better for viewing quick action in sports. Or for gamers, we can upsell the surround sound package by letting them use their phone to switch from the internal TV speakers to a cinematic surround sound system. Or we can tell them that “this TV has all the connections you need for your Xbox and Blu-ray DVD player”, rather than baffle them with how many HDMI and Optical Audio In ports there are. In other words, we can speak in their language, rather than technical language.

 

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In addition, we put the consumer in control of “hailing” someone for help only when they need it. With their permission, we invite them to share their viewing habits, gaming habits and information about their existing setup, so that we can match the right customer service agents to help the consumer.

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And knowing how important it is for consumers to read reviews in-store, we thought about how they could navigate reviews on their phone but “throw them up on the screen” of the television they are thinking of buying.

Sharing of calendar availability through the phone, perhaps the permissioning of things like delivery preferences (available weekends during the day, otherwise after 5pm) and the querying of stock, all using the product they are considering for purchase as the second-screen, is how we think about making the television sell itself in store.

We can’t fundamentally stop the person who is price-driven and bargain-driven from shopping elsewhere – online or otherwise. But for the significant cohort of consumers for whom showrooming behavior is as much about speed and convenience, we think that this kind of experience can help them complete their path to purchase in-store rather than online, albeit through a device – the one they are about to take home!

Summary

This is just a single example of the kind of rapid ideation that is possible when we anchor ourselves in the needs of consumers, and meet them in their moment, on the device of their choosing.

“Insights powered experiences” is an enabling approach for consumer-centered marketing. We are truly enjoying working with global brands and agencies to apply these frameworks for consumer behavior and digital trends in order to deliver breakthrough experiences that put marketers in service of consumers.

We are excited to think beyond art, copy and code, to thinking about consumers, and the art of the possible.

If you are too, we’d love to hear from you below.

Steven Webster, Senior Director, Experience Design

Tags: advertisingweek, adweek13, adweek2013, msa news, msanews
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