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8 December 2016

How new technologies like virtual reality, chatbots and smart devices can take control of the customer journey

One of the focus areas for marketers these days is to manage complex, multi-channel customer journeys. Customers expect a seamless journey across all points of interaction as they don’t distinguish between brand, sales or service experiences. Quickly evolving technologies, such as virtual reality, chatbots or smart devices can help marketers to enable a more seamless experience. These technologies empower the marketer to take control of the customer journey and even shorten the path to purchase. Let’s highlight a few examples.


Frictionless payment solutions consist of an obvious way to shorten customer journeys and make it very easy for customers to transact. Think about how the Uber and iTunes platforms make paying a simple and painless solution. Other companies like Disney World and Tomorrowland have created bracelets (the Magicband and the Tomorrowland bracelet) that allow you to pay by just swiping your arm across an RFID reader.

Chatbots*, powered by advances in artificial intelligence, are tools that offer customers quick and easy ways to place orders or get advice.

  • Taco Bell has announced that they will launch a chatbot that takes orders through a simple and quick conversation.
  • H&M launched a chatbot that helps you search through different outfits. After defining your gender and style, it suggests different outfits that you can like, dislike, shop, save or share. This is also a way of H&M to sell related products more easily.

Source: Taco Bell

devices allow brands to more quickly communicate to customers in the beginning of the path to purchase.

  • Amazon recently created the Amazon Dash button. This is a small Wi-Fi connected device that reorders a product for you when you press a button. Customers can place these buttons around their home at places where they often use products that they frequently need to reorder. For example, you could place a washing liquid button on your laundry machine. When you press the button, your product of choice gets ordered. For customers, this can bring a lot of convenience, especially if they can program their own buttons to perform the task of their choice.
  • Voice assistants* like Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Amazon Echo offer opportunities for brands to interact with their customers through voice-based user interfaces enabling them to, for example, make dinner reservations or order a pizza online. Like Amazon Echo, which can tap into Amazon’s product catalog and walk you through purchasing options.
  • The LG smart fridge equipped with "Smart ThinQ" technology allows users to enter various food items and their expiration dates. In the future, these technologies will enable brands to reach customers at the right moment with the right message, for instance when you are almost running out of a commonly bought product.
  • To bring the smart television in the picture: in the future you might be able to send your message to the customer by using targeted advertising and consumers will be able to buy immediately in front of their tv, using an app that recognizes the sound and shows you the items you can buy (like JBC started doing with the Spott app this year, as a first in Belgium).

Amazon Alexa-blogpost.jpegSource: Wink

Augmented and virtual reality are innovative ways to show the customer what the product or service will look like, so they can make a easier and/or better decision:

    • With augmented reality, customers interested to buy furniture from IKEA can now see how the table that they are interested in looks in their kitchen, making it easier to decide on colors and dimensions.
    • Virtual reality can be used to test drive a car (like Volvo does for the XC90) or show you around in your future house. Builders Digital Experience, a digital marketing company for the home building industry, offers virtual reality products that let you tour a home that may not yet exist.
    • Fiat even offers customers the opportunity to visit a car dealership from their "With the Fiat Live Store" experience. You can talk to experts who walk around a dealership with an eye-level camera, allowing you to view the different parts of the car as if you were present yourself.


All these technologies clearly offer more convenience to customers, but they also create opportunities for new business models and value propositions. For example: selling data and advertising opportunities instead of selling only a fridge. On top of that, they force marketers to reevaluate the way they communicate with their customers. In the Yearly Marketing Survey 2017, we evaluate the status of marketing technology in Belgium and deepdive into other interesting marketing trends.


* Both chatbots and voice assistants are examples of what Chris Messina  calls "conversational commerce". Conversational commerce utilizes chat, messaging and other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to let customers more easily interact with brands and services. It is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support, often while people have only partial attention to spare.