Today, most brands are using chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI), and big data to obtain information about their customers and build fans. According to a recent Gartner study, 59% of organizations worldwide have already deployed AI, and they expect to double the number of AI projects within the next year. Their primary focus: customer experience.
With so many advanced technology options on the market, the question for business leaders is how to leverage this data wisely—without invading everyone’s privacy—to build customer loyalty.
In a panel discussion at Glimpse 2019, a leadership forum co-hosted by Fast Company and The HydraFacial Company, a business specializing in skin-care technology, experts from industries that are utilizing such advanced tech discussed how to deliver what consumers want and need, in the moments when they need it the most. By blending both high and low tech, these companies are finding ways to build a strong and loyal customer base.
Here are four ways that brands are pairing advanced technology with old-school business practices to keep current customers happy—and create new ones in the process.
HAVE CONVERSATIONS WHERE AND WHEN YOU NEED THEM MOST
Whether we like it or not, we interact with artificial intelligence every day. Companies such as LivePerson and Foursquare are building innovative applications that create more personalized and relevant experiences, bringing customers in and keeping them engaged.
Gayle Fuguitt is the chief of customer insight and innovation at Foursquare; she cited a partnership that the location- and tip-sharing app forged with Patrón tequila. Foursquare used AI to look at data from 100 cities worldwide to understand the favorite cocktail in each location. They then created a mobile cocktail quiz that asked people in each locale to come up with customized cocktail recipes that consumers then shared socially. “Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, we were able to hyper-trend the insights about what the drinks were and bring it into something really personal,” Fuguitt told the audience. Foursquare helped Patrón create a worldwide community that passionately shared their love for cocktails.
Additionally, Apple, Facebook, and Google now allow brands to talk with people in their messaging apps like they would a friend or family member, as Marco Ambrosio, the director of growth strategy at LivePerson, described it, “In the near future, companies are going to be in your messaging feed like a contact,” he said. Companies can leverage social ads that open up a message on your phone. For companies that are registered with Apple and on messaging, a person who clicks any phone number link while on a smartphone will get the option to call, message, or cancel. Early tests show up to 60% of people choosing to message. Ambrosio says, “companies will need to leverage bots to handle the flow.”
While bots are increasingly getting smarter, it doesn’t mean they are going to replace humans. According to Ambrosio, human supervision and interaction is still a crucial part of building brand loyalty. “We are called LivePerson,” he said. “Bots and humans will have to work together. Bots allow humans to focus on the more complex or challenging asks. Also, Bots need to be continually trained and supervised. If the bot isn’t trained for a specific ask or is confused, we push to humans.”
Today’s cult brands are all about personalized experiences. Activities that were once as singularly oriented as cycling and buying eyewear now offer an entire ecosystem of experiences that span everything from gym sessions and at-home services to in-store and large-scale events. These aren’t disappearing anytime soon, either, said the panelists at Glimpse.
Amy Shecter, CEO of Glamsquad, an at-home beauty service provider, is trying to transform her brand into the Uber for beauty. “Surely the idea of having hair, makeup, and nails done at home, on your schedule, is only for the incredibly rich or the elite celebrity,” she said. “But everyone should have a Glamsquad that can personalize their beauty treatments to meet their needs. A high level of personalization is what customers demand, and it creates loyal fans of the brand who return again and again.”
MINDBODY, the salon, spa, and fitness-software platform offers customers a wealth of options for self-care in a customizable system that suits their schedules. “We are becoming the one-stop-shop for wellness services,” said Amaya Becvar Weddle, the company’s senior director of research and product marketing. “Our services allow people to book a variety of wellness activities when they want and need them. [You can] book a spin class in the morning, followed by a meditation at a boutique studio in the afternoon.”
BUILD AN ACCESSIBLE EXPERIENCE BOTH ONLINE AND “IRL”
Creating an experience both in real time and online can be tricky for most businesses, but Sephora and HydraFacial are doing just that. Bridget Dolan, the senior vice president for Omni Experience and Innovation at Sephora, told the panel audience that it comes down to leveraging smart technology that gives customers the confidence not only to look great, but also to have the tools to re-create their experience in their own home.
When someone comes in to get their makeup done, makeup artists scan a product and create a map for the consumer to follow at home. When customers shop online, Sephora utilizes a “virtual artist” to help clients “try on” makeup and teach them how to create the same look on their own skin.
“So you’re sitting in the comfort of your own home, but you’re learning how to create a smoky eye,” Dolan explained. “That’s fantastic. We’re taking that experience and making it digital. We can actually build it step-by-step on your skin. No one out there had done that.”
The point of the technology is being able to create what Dolan calls “instant wow:” “It’s this idea that the more we teach our clients, the more we spend time with them—whether it’s virtually or in person—the more invested they get in the categories that we are in and the better clients they want to be.”
According to a study by The HydraFacial Company and Wakefield Research, 75% of consumers follow a consistent skin-health regimen. However, given that they rate their treatment as only 6 (on a 10-point scale) indicates they aren’t quite satisfied. “Most consumers are trying to find the right balance of products and treatments without much guidance, ” says Lisa Fawcett, chief marketing officer for The HydraFacial Company. “We want to help take out the guesswork.
The newly launched HydraFacial Skin Health Assessment takes all factors of skin health into consideration with a series of easy-to-answer questions, and it provides a personalized plan. “We understand consumers value simplicity and personalized experiences, and our Skin Health Assessment allows us to start a conversation with consumers before they even step foot in a provider location,” Fawcett adds. “Once they are with a HydraFacialist, our experts will further customize the client’s HydraFacial experience based on their assessment results.”
USING TECHNOLOGY TO BUILD REAL-WORLD CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS
We’ve become such a connected population that it’s often hard to inject ourselves back into the real, physical world. But as Bruce Smith, the founder of Hydrow, has discovered, by intelligently leveraging technology we can reconnect to our bodies and our customers.
Hydrow is an at-home rowing system similar to the popular Peloton system. Hydrow allows you to join live or pre-recorded training sessions with world-class rowing champions who are actually doing the work out on the Charles River while you work out on a rowing machine at home. Smith believes that connecting to customers means melding real-world relationships and experiences with technology.
“Hydrow allows you to do something with your physical body and reassemble it in a virtual space,” he said. “If you can exercise and have that exercise be your token of trust in a broader community, you can be on a team and row in a boat with other people. You can have that extraordinary experience of sharing that with somebody.”
The Hydrow rowing system has become so popular that the machines are currently sold out less than a year after a crowdfunding effort. It’s a prime example of how a brand creates a fan base by leveraging technology (paired with great storytelling and game-playing) to connect with customers. By combining cutting-edge tech with real-life connections, companies can create tremendous customer loyalty that also grows the bottom line.
This article was created for and commissioned by The HydraFacial Company. To learn more about HydraFacial’s personalized skin health regimens, visit Assessment.HydraFacial.com.