Marketers must separate the ‘hot’ from the hype

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The ability to differentiate technologies that are simply not ready for prime time from those that can give a genuine boost to help meet the expectations of their customers is an ability all successful marketers should have.

Yet this is easier said than done, especially when one considers the thousands of firms peddling their incredible assortment of technologies and services – and clamoring for the attention of marketers who are overloaded and strapped for time.

And the consequences of making a misstep can be dire; marketers that invest in technology that is too nascent, or too far ahead of consumer expectations and behaviors can quickly find themselves with abandoned programs and investments that are essentially unrecoverable.

Learning from retailers

A new report published by Forrester seeks to help retailers identify technologies that are relevant from those that are not. Titled “Hot or hype: The most important retail technologies for 2017”, it seeks to help retailers amidst the exceptional pressure they face to push out next-generation digital services to retain and excite their customer base.

The report draws from insights obtained from more than 80 industry professionals hailing from 40 different vendor and retailer companies. Though positioned at retailers, the advice offered is equally relevant to marketers from industry verticals other than the retail sector, if one pauses to consider the similarities in the kind of challenges modern marketers face today.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those interviewed offered advice that sounds indistinguishable – sans the emphasis on operational considerations – from what one would hear from a marketer. Specifically, they were of the consensus that the focus should be “on tech that creates personal customer connections, reduces pain points along the [customer’s] journey, and optimizes operational efficiencies.”

The hot and the hype

Notably, the Forrester report recommends that retailers focus on tech that creates personal customer connections, reduces pain points along the shopper’s journey, and optimizes operational efficiencies.

Analyst Brendan Witcher divides the technologies into three levels of importance, namely “hot” for high priority, on the radar for medium priority, and “hype”, which should be considered as low priority.

Notably, serving up great experiences, personalization and analytics are among those considered as being core areas of investment this year, while chatbots and artificial intelligence are identified as up-and-coming areas that may not necessarily front commerce at the moment.

Technologies such as self-checkout, distributed commerce, artificially intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are so new that “most retailers” are also unlikely to make significant investments currently. Indeed, they are too far ahead for retail customers, and described as solutions in search of a problem.

Customer experience

According to the report, marketers should invest in technology that is directly tied to clear and measurable customer value. Crucially, they should not focus on “shiny objects” but instead look to strategies and proven technologies that empower customer-centric strategies and schemes.

Chosen correctly, the judicious use of technology should lead to heightened customer satisfaction, improved loyalty, and ultimately help to boost the company’s bottom line. Ultimately, customers today demand great experiences, and businesses that can deliver that will gain the advantage over their competitors.